Canadian Health officials are warning Canadians that the population of disease-carrying wood ticks is growing. Researchers have found that along with the increasing numbers, ticks are taking up residence in new areas across the country.

Why are ticks a concern to humans?

There are many species of ticks and not all of them pose a threat to humans. However, some of them, namely the Deer Tick, Western Black Legged Tick, and the Lone Star Tick are capable of spreading disease to humans. Depending on where they live, anywhere from 1 to 90% of ticks are infected with the bacteria Borellia bugdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. Ticks carry many other diseases, including tularemia, tick paralysis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Colorado Tick Fever.

Infected ticks spread the harmful bacteria through their saliva to humans when they bite. This bacteria is NOT transmitted from human to human, or from humans to pets. Dogs, however, can contract the bacteria from the infected urine of other dogs.

Where are ticks found?

Ticks are commonly found in grass, weeds, forest floors, leaf litter, and bushes.

Is there a tick “season”?

Ticks are most commonly a problem for humans and pets from April through September. However, they may be found year round. Ticks are most active when it is -2C and above.

What do ticks look like?

There are many species of disease-carrying ticks and they all look fairly similar. They have 3 or 4 pairs of legs, depending on their stage of development (larval, nymph, adult) and are 1-5mm in size. They can become as large as 2 cm after sucking the blood of their host.

How can you prevent being bitten by a tick?

  • Avoid bushes and wooded areas with high grasses and walk in the center of trails
  • Repel ticks with DEET-containing repellent. Ensure that the repellent contains more than 20% DEET and apply to exposed skin.
  • Bathe or shower within 2 hours after coming indoors
  • Conduct a full-body tick check using a handheld mirror when you have been in tick infested areas. Parents should check children for ticks. Be sure to check under arms, around ears, inside belly buttons, behind knees, between legs, around the waist, and especially in hair.
  • Enlist the help of another person if you are not able to do a thorough inspection.
  • Examine gear (i.e. backpacks) and pets thoroughly. Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill any hiding ticks.

What should you do if you are bitten by a tick?

Embedded ticks should be removed using fine tip tweezers, grasping the tick firmly and as close to the skin as possible. With a steady motion, pull the tick’s body away from the skin. DO NOT use fingers to pull out ticks. DO NOT use petroleum jelly, a hot match, nail polish, or other products. Cleanse the area with an antiseptic and SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION IMMEDIATELY.

If you are bitten by an infected tick, failure to seek medical attention may result in the development of Lyme disease.

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