Due to the limited awareness/information campaign undertaken by Nova Scotia Health regarding risks associated with tick bites many people seem to think that they are only a problem in the spring and summer, if that. In Nova Scotia, and many other areas, temperatures allow for ticks to be active any month of the year. They have been found on people and pets in December, January and every other month when temperatures rise above freezing.
With this being the time of year where people are putting their yards to bed for the winter; hiking to see the beautiful fall foliage; hunting; and just enjoying the outdoors prior to the winter months; appropriate tick bite prevention measures need to still be undertaken. There are a lot of things you can do to help prevent a tick bite, but here are a few easy ones:
- tuck your pants into your socks and your shirt into your pants to extend time for you to check for ticks before they find skin;
- wear light coloured clothing to ensure that you will see any crawling ticks before they reach your skin;
- carry a lint roller or sticky tape with you to pick off any unattached ticks;
- use permethrin treated clothing (available at Marks and on-line) and either DEET or Icaridin on your skin;
- stay out of long grass;
- don’t jump in leaf piles;
- toss clothing into a hot dryer for 15 minutes when you get home to kill any hitchhiking ticks;
- shower shortly after getting home to wash off any unattached ticks;
- do a thorough tick check, especially in warm, moist areas;
- if you find an attached tick, ensure that you remove it correctly – DON’T squeeze it’s body (here is a good tick removal video put out by the federal government – https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/video/lyme-disease-properly-remove-tick.html.
Although we do not yet know how many confirmed/probable cases of Lyme there were in Nova Scotia in 2020, we do know that in 2019 there were 830 confirmed/probable cases, which was a substantial increase over the 454 cases in 2018. We also know that the confirmed/probable case numbers are not the actual annual number due to under-reporting, etc. Although there presently isn’t agreement as to how many cases are being missed annually in Canada, and Nova Scotia, it is agreed that cases are being missed. Therefore, the number of annual cases are no doubt much higher.
The following are two publications regarding how many cases we may be missing in Canada:
- “Under-Detection of Lyme Disease in Canada” – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6315539/.
- “What is the real number of Lyme disease cases in Canada?” – https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-019-7219-x.
Whether we should multiply the case number by 2, 5, 10, or more, to get the actual number of cases, the annual numbers are higher than what is frequently quoted in the media, resulting in many not giving Lyme and Tick-borne diseases much thought. It is time to change that perception so that everyone undertakes appropriate preventative measures.
From the calls, emails, social media posts, etc., in 2020 and 2021, the number of people bitten by ticks has again increased.
Please take the issue seriously and do what you can to protect yourself from ticks. They are not going anywhere; they are going to increase; the number carrying diseases will no doubt continue to increase; so we need to learn to live with them, but have a healthy fear of them. Fresh air and sunshine is imperative for good health so we cannot stay in our homes afraid of ticks.