Ask Your Pharmacist
My brother works in the woods and he found a tick under his arm during a shower. What do we need to know about Lyme disease prevention in New Brunswick?
It may not seem like it after this past chilly weekend but this is a timely question. Tick season in New Brunswick has two peaks in activity, first beginning in April and again in October. A general rule of thumb is to be vigilant 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 by 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. Scientists believe this has to do with the impact 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. More and more New Brunswickers are hitting the trail systems in New Brunswick. I personally am planning an upcoming hike on the Sentier Nepisiguit Mi'gmaq Trail in the upcoming season so this is good advice for me to follow, too.
Prevention is key. Protect. Check. Remove. Act. The best way to avoid Lyme Disease is to protect yourself from getting bitten by a tick. 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. 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.
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 and label with the date of suspected attachment and the geographical location where the tick occurred.
The New Brunswick Public Health website will help you identify ticks. At the website ETick.ca you can submit photos of a tick you find attached to yourself and receive information in less than 48 hours about the name of the species of the tick collected and information on the clinical relevance of the species in question and on how to proceed after a tick bite.
After the tick has been removed, act. Watch for erythema migrans, which is a skin rash that looks like a bull’s eye. Contact your primary care provider or pharmacist if you develop a rash or flu-like symptoms over the next 30 days after a tick bite.
Dr Kevin Duplisea (PharmD BSc. Pharm, BSc. ACPR) is a pharmacist In Quispamsis, 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.
Sussex pharmacist Kevin Duplisea dispenses information and advice on a wide range of pharmacy questions in a regular column published in several newspapers.
If you have a question you’d like to see answered in his column, you can send it to him at AskYourNBPharmacist@gmail.com.