Ticks: A hunting we go

Pictou-Advocate-opinion

To the Editor:

The autumn has arrived and deer hunting season will soon begin. Most people do not know that they are not the only ones out hunting. Adult ticks are hunting, also known as ‘questing,’ for their last blood meal completing their life cycle and allowing the females to lay their thousands of eggs beginning the new cycle. The adults climb onto vegetation, wait for a host to crawl onto — which is usually a larger mammal, and a human can be it. Adult blacklegged ticks are active September to May depending on the weather and peak in October and April. The month of October is a high risk time but it is important to remember there is risk in every month of the year.

Last year I learned of one young man who was hunting and had a tick attached to his back for an unknown length of time and developed symptoms associated with Lyme disease. The tick was cut out at a hospital; he received stitches and a short course of antibiotics. It is not necessary to surgically remove a tick as only their mouth parts are inserted into the skin and the body of the tick remains on the outside. The family went through ingenious measures in order for their son to have adequate treatment and he is fine. There is a need for doctors to have current up to date training regarding vector borne diseases in Canada.

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Lyme is an OHS (Occupational Health and Safety) risk and many occupations may be at risk, including forestry, farming, veterinarians, construction, landscaping, ground keepers, park or wildlife management, and anyone who either works outside or has contact with animals that may carry the ticks (including domestic animals like dogs, cats, goats, cows, horses, etc.). Similarly, any person who spends a lot time outdoors (hiking, camping, birding, golfing, hunting, fishing, etc.), especially in grassy or wooded areas, may also be at risk.

Education for the public is important to help prevent a problem yet many are still unaware that there is a problem. Pictou County has been deemed a high risk area and people need to be vigilant with regard to avoid being bitten by a tick.

Daily “full body” checks for ticks should be performed: ticks attach themselves to the skin so they can be found and removed, which usually prevents infection if this is done early enough. Check your children’s head/hair as if you were looking for lice. Remember the ticks can be very small so look carefully. It has been said the tick needs to be attached for 24 to 36 hours but current research shows that time required for transmission is much less. It has been said that there is really ‘no safety window’. It would be difficult to say exactly how long a tick may have been attached; they do not have a time clock. It has been found that the tick can start to transfer the bacteria as soon as it bites the host, little or no time lapse required although the longer it is attached the likelihood of infection increases.

Walk in the centre of trails and try to avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter. People have been bitten in their own yards. Proper dress is helpful. Wear closed-in shoes and cover up, wear light coloured clothing and tuck your pants into your socks. Use a repellent; something that contains picaridin is a good choice as it has been shown that DEET is not good at repelling ticks. There are natural tick repellents such as vinegar and some essential oils, rose geranium, yarrow, lavender, eucalyptus and others. Nothing is 100 per cent so it is important to check yourself, your children and your pets for ticks. What if you find an attached tick? DO NOT put anything on a tick such as dish soap, alcohol or a hot match to name a few things people have used, or twist the tick. Carefully and slowly pull straight up to remove the tick with fine-point tweezers or use a tick removal device. It would be wise for those in the outdoors or those hunting to have a tick remover and a container/baggie to save the tick. If a tick is attached and found save the tick to send for testing and seek medical help.

When you come back indoors it is recommended to remove your clothes in the garage or somewhere avoiding the inside of your home. Shake out those clothes and try to remove any ticks that might be stuck on your garments. A lint roller can pick up unattached crawling ticks. Place clothes in a hot dryer for 10 to 15 minutes to kill any missed ticks as washing will not kill ticks; they do not drown. It is recommended to shower or bathe within two hours of being outdoors to wash away any unattached ticks as it takes time for attachment.

Be aware, be vigilant to try and avoid ending up with a health problem.

Education is key!

Brenda Sterling-Goodwin

New Glasgow