More than just ticking boxes: 5 ways to avoid Lyme disease on the Trail
Fever, nausea and chills might be symptoms you’d associate with a bad flu in winter. However, more Canadians are experiencing these sensations in summer, due to the ever-increasing number of cases of Lyme disease.
Instances of the debilitating illness are on the rise nationwide, jumping from 144 cases in 2009 to 992 in 2016. According to the Government of Canada, over 88% of cases in 2016 were reported in Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia. This high rate is believed to be caused by bites from blacklegged ticks, which have large populations in these provinces.
While the prospect of contracting Lyme disease from ticks is frightening, it shouldn’t keep us indoors – especially not during The Great Trail Treasure Hunt! Take note of these five tips for keeping you and your family safe.
1. Wear suitable clothes
Clothing is the first line of defence from tick bites. Leave your shorts and tank tops at home and instead opt for long-sleeved shirts and pants. To ensure maximum protection, tuck your shirt into your pants and your socks into your pants before hitting the Trail. It might not be the most fashion-forward look you’ll ever adopt, but it’s a crucial component to protecting yourself from ticks.
2. Use the right repellent
Keep in mind that sensible clothing alone won’t be enough to protect you from tick bites. Always choose an insect repellent that contains DEET or Icaridin, and, following the directions on the label, apply it to your skin and clothing.
3. Choose the right Trail section
Low-growing grasses and brush can be havens for ticks. When deciding on where to seek out treasure this year, opt for paved paths and trails cleared of plants and grasses that could come into contact with your skin. The Great Trail’s online map is a helpful resource for finding out more about the terrain of each Trail section.
4. Check for ticks – outdoors and indoors
While still outdoors, remember to check yourself and your children regularly for any ticks that may have attached to your clothes or bodies. If you do find a tick, remove it with a pair of tweezers immediately.
Remember that it’s important to protect yourself from infection, even when you’ve arrived home. Before bringing any outdoor gear inside, check your outdoor gear again for any ticks. Taking a shower within two hours of getting home is good practice, as is putting your clothes in a dryer on a high heat for 10 minutes to remove any other unwanted guests.
5. Stay vigilant for symptoms
A Lyme disease infection can occur 24 to 36 hours after a tick bite, and the first symptoms often appear between 3 to 30 days after being bitten. Consider seeking medical advice if you notice any of the following:
- A skin rash that is present for at least 48 hours and expands rapidly. The rash may appear circular or look like a bull’s eye, or may be very pale with poorly defined edges.
- Increased fatigue
- Muscle aches
If the disease is not detected and treated quickly, more severe symptoms may develop. If you’re ever in doubt, make an appointment with your doctor.