Ask Your Pharmacist

April 22, 2021
Q:

COVID has meant that our family is spending much more time outdoors, especially exploring some wonderful New Brunswick trails. We love it, but I am worried about ticks. What’s your advice to avoid Lyme Disease?

A:

Thanks for your question. It’s only early spring but I have started checking my pup and myself for ticks before we come back in the house from outdoors. Tick season in New Brunswick has two peaks in activity, first beginning in April and again in October. A general rule of thumb is watch for ticks when there is no snow on the ground. New Brunswick’s Department of Health has some excellent resources on Lyme Disease, some of which I am sharing below.

Lyme disease is caused from infection with the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. Borrelia is a spirochete transmitted by certain species of Ixodes ticks. In New Brunswick, it is spread through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks (Ixodes scapularis).

Over the last several years the black-legged tick has made New Brunswick home. Experts believe this has to do with the impact that our warming climate is having on the migration patterns of birds, which often carry the black-legged tick from one geographical location to another. 

Black-legged ticks are found on the perimeter of woods, in shrubbery, and in tall grassy areas.  With the physical distancing and isolation caused by COVID-19, many of us are taking the opportunity to get outside and enjoy the beauty of our province. When out for a hike, keep to the center of the path so that you are less likely to brush up against a tick that is hanging out on the local greenery.

Prevention is key. The best way to avoid Lyme Disease is to prevent getting bitten by a tick.  Health Canada has some great tips for us to follow: Wear light coloured, long-sleeved shirts and pants to spot ticks more easily. Tuck your shirt into your pants, and pull your socks over your pant legs.

Insect repellent containing the active ingredient Icaridin (i.e. PiACTIVE retails for approximately $15.00 a can). Icaridin is active against ticks and is a safer choice (compared to DEET containing products), for children six months and older as well as adults. Icaridin containing bug spray may be applied on your skin and clothing (always follow the directions on the label). Reapply often when you are outdoors for any period.

When you come inside after a hike, put dry outdoor clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill off any ticks. If your clothes are damp, additional drying time is needed. If you need to wash your clothes first, hot water is recommended. If the clothes cannot be washed in hot water, tumble dry on low heat for 90 minutes or high heat for 60 minutes.

Do daily full-body tick checks on yourself and your children, especially in the hair, under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs and around the waist.  Shower within two hours of being outdoors to remove ticks that have not attached yet. Health Canada has a really helpful poster to show you where to check: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/diseases-conditions/top-10-tick-hiding-spots-body-poster.html

If you find a tick engorged (attached to the skin and feeding), do not panic. Removing an engorged tick within 24-36 hours can help prevent infection. Remove the tick carefully with tweezers or a tick remover (i.e., Tick’d Off TM retails for approximately $6.00). Try to remove the entire tick without breaking part off by pulling directly upwards in a perpendicular direction to the skin. Save the tick in a jar or pill bottle for Public Health (date and geographical location found should be documented). Keep a watch for erythema migrans, which is a skin rash that looks like a bull’s eye. Even if you do not see this skin reaction, contact a health professional for advice about whether antibiotic preventative treatment is warranted.

Enjoy the outdoors this spring and be thankful we are living in beautiful New Brunswick!

https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/lyme-disease.html

https://www2.gnb.ca/content/gnb/en/departments/ocmoh/cdc/content/vectorborne_andzoonotic/Tick-Borne_Diseases.html

Dr Kevin Duplisea (PharmD BSc. Pharm, BSc. ACPR) is a pharmacist at Sharp’s Corner Drugstore in Sussex, New Brunswick. His opinions expressed in this newspaper are published for educational and informational purposes only, and are not intended as a diagnosis, treatment or as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Send your questions to AskYourNBPharmacist@gmail.com.