This past week I had been doing some standardized sampling again in the rare Charitable Research Reserve with some of my co-workers. It was a great week for weather so it made the field work even more enjoyable! I have been going to rare quite a bit recently and every now and then I involuntarily bring home a very small hitchhiker. These hitchhikers are better known by the common name ticks, and they are a very important topic!
Ticks are external parasites which feed on the blood of their host. Most ticks are known to attach onto birds or mammals (including humans) in order to do this, which means they can go long distances in a short amount of time depending on their host.
Ticks can transfer many kinds of diseases. Lately though, a lot of attention has been focused on ticks’ ability to transfer Lyme disease. Lyme disease is an infection which can eventually cause many forms of discomfort including shooting leg pains, bad headaches, heart palpitations, and more. Can all ticks transfer Lyme disease though? Luckily the answer is no, but there is a species that is becoming more common in Ontario lately that definitely can. This tick is known commonly as the Deer Tick or black legged tick.
If a Deer Tick that is infected with Lyme disease bites you, it may transfer the disease over to you. About a week after being infected, some people develop a rash known as the “Bull’s Eye” rash around the area where they have been bitten. You may also start to develop some flu-like symptoms which will eventually lead to the more severe problems mentioned before. Lyme disease is a relatively new topic in the medical world, but you are urged to go see your doctor if you have any suspicion at all that you might have it.
So what should you do if you have a tick on you? First of all, do not panic. If the tick has not visibly embedded into your skin yet, you should remove the tick off of your body but put the tick in a container for later examination. If the tick is visibly embedded into your skin, follow the tick removal instructions here. Now once the tick is off of you and stored into a container, you can try to identify the tick to verify if it is a Deer Tick or not. I personally have never had a Deer Tick on me but I have had a few American dog ticks and Rocky Mountain Wood Ticks on me. Regardless, you should keep them because other species of ticks can transmit other kinds of diseases, but it is less common here in Ontario. If it is a Deer Tick, you should bring it to your doctor as soon as possible so you and the tick can be tested in order to avoid Lyme disease all together.
If you are in an area where you know there may be ticks present, you should take some precautions. Here at BIO we do a few things to try and avoid tick encounters. Always wear longs pants and socks. Tuck your long pants into your socks so the ticks cannot climb up from your shoes. We also recommend doing a thorough check after a day in the field once you’re in the privacy of your home because ticks can be found anywhere on the outside of your body!
Now that I have sufficiently scared you about ticks, you too can be as cautious as we are at BIO about tick safety!
As always, thanks for reading,