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I found five ticks on my dog this weekend after a hike. I love hiking and the outdoors, but I also don’t want Lyme disease. I don’t want to give up my walks. How can I protect myself from ticks?
There is not much better for our overall health than exercise, and after a cruel winter (They are all cruel I say), it’s time to get outside for fresh air and physical activity. If hiking is your thing, I certainly would keep hiking, but you will have to what to do when ticks are encountered. Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that is transmitted in the bites of a specific type of tick, the Black-Legged Tick. This tick is one of three tick species in New Brunswick. Only about 13 per cent of Black-Legged Ticks carry the bacteria causing Lyme disease, and even if you are bitten by an infected tick, it is still unlikely that the infection will be transmitted to you, especially if the tick is removed properly in the first 24 to 36 hours after being bit.
Ticks live mainly in wooded, bushy, areas with long grass so if you out in an area like this, be sure to take some precautions. Insect repellents containing DEET repel ticks so make sure to apply regularly. Covering up your body with light colored clothes is another good idea so ticks don’t have direct access to your skin and are easily visible against the light color. Most importantly, check yourself after you have been out in an area that may have ticks. Examine your whole body and also your kids and pets. If you find a tick, remove it immediately by grasping the head with pointed tweezers and pulling the tick off. The tick can be kept in a vial or bag for testing through Public Health.
In 2017, 29 cases of Lyme disease were laboratory-confirmed in New Brunswick but there seems to be much misunderstanding amongst the public about how Lyme disease presents and how it can be treated. The signs and symptoms usually appear in stages. The development of a rash of rings (resembling a bullseye target) is one of the hallmark symptoms of Lyme disease. Normally the rash appears within three and 30 days of a bite. This rash occurs in 80 per cent of cases. It is also common to have flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills and body aches along with this rash, which usually starts within 10 days of a bite. If left untreated, symptoms such as joint pain and neurological problems can occur. These are the long-term complications the most patients think of when they think of Lyme disease.
Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics, but they may not be used for all tick bites. If you cannot say for sure that the bite has been within the last 24 hours, or if you develop a rash or flu like symptoms within 30 days of a tick bite then you should see your family doctor.
Ticks are becoming more common and expanding in range across not only New Brunswick but also across Canada and the U.S.A. That said, if you take the proper precautions and know when to see a doctor, you don’t have to let ticks come between you and the great outdoors.
Jared Mactavish (BSc., Pharm) is a pharmacist in Saint John. 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.
Jared Mactavish, pharmacien à Saint John, donne un éventail de renseignements et de conseils sur le domaine de la pharmacie dans une chronique régulière publiée dans The Daily Gleaner.
Si vous souhaitez qu’il réponde à une de vos questions dans sa chronique, adressez-la-lui à AskYourNBPharmacist@gmail.com.