What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria and is spread through the bite of a blacklegged (deer) tick. But, not all blacklegged ticks carry the bacteria. Dog ticks and others kinds of ticks do not carry the bacteria for Lyme disease.
Ticks like areas with tall grass and bushes and they get on people who walk through these areas. Ticks cannot fly or jump.
How to Avoid Picking Up a Tick
- Be aware of Lyme Disease Risk Areas (Public Health Ontario Map)
- Don’t walk with bare legs in tall grass, wooded areas or marshlands
- Wear long sleeves, pants and fully closed boots/ shoes
- Tuck your pants into your socks
- Wear light-coloured clothing to spot ticks easier
- Wear a bug repellent with DEET (read and follow instructions on label, especially when using them on young kids)
- Do a “tick check” after walking in an area where you may come in contact with a tick
- Shower and towel off to remove any ticks that might not be attached, and then check underarms, neck and groin area
- Ticks can be tiny! They can range from the size of a pinhead to the size of a watermelon seed, and even larger if they have been feeding
How to Remove a Tick
- Using fine-tipped tweezers, carefully grab the tick as close to the skin as possible
- Pull it straight out, gently but firmly
- Don’t squeeze the tick! If the Lyme disease bacteria is in the tick it can get pushed into your body
- Don’t put anything on the tick or try to burn it off
- Clean the bite site with rubbing alcohol and/or soap and water
- Keep an eye out for symptoms such as fever, chills, headache or the bull’s eye rash (but not everyone gets this rash!)
How to Submit a Tick for Identification
Knowing what kind of tick it is can help to know your risk of getting Lyme disease. Ticks can be submitted online or in-person for identification. Only blacklegged ticks removed from humans will be tested for Lyme disease.
If you feel unwell after an exposure to any tick, consult you family physician and inform them of the tick exposure.
In-Person Tick Identification
Carefully remove the tick (see above for proper tick removal)
Place the tick in a screw-top bottle or hard sealable container (not a sandwich bag) and bring it to your doctor or your local health unit for advice.
Please Note: Southwestern Public Health does not accept ticks that have been found on animals. Talk to your vet for more information on your animal’s health.
After the tick is removed:
1. Gently wash the bite with soap and water and disinfect with an alcohol-based hand rub. Don’t forget to disinfect the tweezers or the tick key too.
2. Put a paper towel in an airtight plastic container. The container should be big enough to hold the tick without damaging it. Also make sure the container has a top that fastens securely (for example, a clean pill bottle).
3. Transfer the live tick to the container using tweezers, gloves or other protection.
4. Label the container with the following information:
- Your name
- Location and date the tick was collected
- Note: we only accept ticks that were attached to human hosts.
Ticks that were attached to a dog or cat will not be accepted at the health unit.
Please consult with your vet regarding ticks from domestic pets.
5. If you cannot submit the tick immediately, you can store it in a container for up to 10 days. Store live ticks in the refrigerator, and dead ticks in the freezer.
6. Tick submissions should be taken to:
St. Thomas Site
1230 Talbot Street St. Thomas, ON N5P 1G9
410 Buller Street, Woodstock, ON N4S 4N2
Open Monday – Friday from 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
7. If you develop symptoms of Lyme disease in the weeks following the bite, contact your health care provider right away.
8. Removing a tick within 24 hours will significantly reduce your risk of infection.
Online Tick Identification
Free online tick identification services are available at etick.ca.
By visiting etick.ca or downloading the app on Google Play or the Apple App Store, you can submit a photo of a tick that was removed from an animal or human for free identification. Send in photographs of your tick and an expert will identify it within 48 hours. They will then contact you with the results via email and provide the necessary public health information. All ticks results are posted on an interactive public tick map.