As temperatures start to climb, the Ontario government is encouraging people across the province to take precautions to prevent tick bites and reduce the risk of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses when enjoying the outdoors.
Lyme disease is a potentially serious infection that comes from being bitten by an infected blacklegged tick, commonly known as a deer tick. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, fatigue, and an expanding circular rash that resembles a bulls-eye. Ticks commonly live in wooded areas, tall grasses, and bushes and can be found almost anywhere in Ontario, including city gardens and parks.
“As we head outside to start enjoying the warmer weather, it is important to protect ourselves from Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses,” said Sylvia Jones, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “With tick populations expanding every year, the number of people at risk of tick bites is increasing. By taking simple precautions, Ontarians can protect themselves and their families when enjoying time outdoors in our beautiful province.”
You can protect yourself from tick bites by:
- wearing light-coloured clothing, so it’s easier to spot ticks
- wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants tucked into your socks, and closed-toed shoes
- using an insect repellent with DEET or icaridin in it
- checking yourself, your children, and your pets for ticks after being outdoors. Any ticks found should be removed promptly
- putting clothes on high heat in a dryer for at least 10 minutes before washing clothing after spending time outdoors
“We are seeing an increase in cases of Lyme and other diseases transmitted by ticks in line with other jurisdictions,” said Dr. Kieran Moore, Chief Medical Officer of Health. “Simple, precautionary measures can reduce the risk of getting bitten by a tick. This includes being vigilant in wooded or grassy areas, even in your backyard, and doing routine tick checks after enjoying the outdoors.”
Ticks are very small and hard to see. When a tick is found, it should be removed immediately using fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to your skin as possible. Once the tick has been removed, wash the area with soap and water and then disinfect the area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or an iodine swab.
If you have any health concerns after a tick bite, consult a health care provider as soon as possible. Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with antibiotics.
- Infected blacklegged ticks can be found almost anywhere in the province. There have been over 3,000 cases of Lyme disease in Ontario since 2021.
- If left untreated, Lyme disease can make you feel tired and weak. In severe cases, it can affect your heart, nerves, liver, and joints, and, in very rare cases, cause death.
- While ticks are most active in spring and summer, they can be found during any time of the year when the temperature is above freezing.