The Risk of Lyme Disease: Outdoor Adventure & Ticks
My family and I have had our first camping trip of the year, we love the outdoors, but this year we've taken more than memories from our experience. On day two of our trip, I was in the vault toilet helping my 3 year old "not fall in", and I casually tried to brush away some debris on her leg, but it was stuck. I got her out into the sunlight and there it was our first tick.
So, I have anxiety, my mind immediately started racing. Lyme Disease! I've read about ticks and lyme disease and proper removal, but at that moment I could not hold a thought long enough to be an effective adult! That's why I'm married! LOL P.S. I'll help you bury a body, but I suck in a crisis!
My husband and I sat her down, got a tissue and a container, and with a pair of tweezers proceeded to remove the tick. We got it off intact, placed it in a tissue and put it in a container. We then circled the bite mark on her leg in purple Crayola marker so we would know exactly where to monitor for the "bullseye rash".
Lyme Disease is very serious for toddlers and infants if left untreated. It's an inflammatory infection that spreads to humans through tick bites. It is also very serious if you are pregnant, and studies have found that the disease can be passed to the baby through the placenta and can cause birth defects.
At the end of this post, I will share some helpful online resources given to us by the medical professionals we've dealt with over the last week.
So Here's what happened when we got back home and the long weekend was over.
We live in Ontario, and our first step was to take the tick to our local Health Unit, they asked us some questions and took down our contact information. The tick is first being sent to a lab for species identification. Canada is home to many species of ticks, but the Ixodes Tick – more often known as the “black-legged” or “deer” tick – is the most common Lyme-carrier.
Once the tick has been identified, it will be sent on a trip out of province to determine whether or not it was infected with Lyme disease. We were told results would take 5 weeks. Pretty scary when you consider the longer you have the illness the harder it is to treat.
See a Doctor. The health unit told us to go in right away, not to wait for symptoms. We were told by the health professionals that only 30-50% of people develop the bulls-eye rash that is commonly associated with Lyme disease. We brought our daughter to the ER, the only option available to us in our community (we are very short on doctors), and even though she was considered low risk, they gave her a prophylactic dose of antibiotic.
Tick that has been attached for less than 24 hours (left), and tick that has fed (right)
Why was she considered low risk?
First off, the area we were camping in is considered high risk for Lyme disease, at the bottom of this post there is a link for the Ontario Lyme Disease Risk map. However, the tick had been attached for less than 24 hours. How do I know this? I help my 3 year old get dressed so I see her naked at least twice a day, and secondly, and most importantly, the tick had not fed yet. The tick we removed from her body was flat and not engorged. A tick needs to firmly establish itself before it feeds, which usually takes 24 hours.
If you happen to be playing outside this summer and you notice a tick on yourself or your child, here are some helpful tips. Remember to save the tick and to go see a health professional as soon as possible.
How do I remove a tick from my child?
If you find a tick attached to your child, remove it as soon as possible. Ticks can stay attached and feed for five or more days. Removing a tick within 24 to 36 hours of it starting to feed is likely to prevent Lyme disease.
- Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick’s mouth-part area (not the body) close to the skin surface
- Pull upward with steady, even pressure
- Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and stay in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you can’t, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
- When possible, disinfect the bite area after removal (with an antiseptic like rubbing alcohol).
Tips on how to keep your LO & yourself safe!
Ticks cannot jump or fly. They climb tall grasses or shrubs and wait for potential hosts to brush against them.
If you live, hike or camp in rural or wooded areas where you may be exposed to ticks, especially from late spring to early fall, you should take precautions. Here is what you can do to help prevent contact with infected ticks:
- In wooded areas and parks, stay on paths to avoid areas where ticks are most common.
- Ensure you and your children are dressed in long, loose-fitting clothes that cover the arms and legs, a hat and closed shoes (not sandals). Tucking shirts into pants and pants into socks are extra precautions.
- Use insect repellents containing DEET or icaridin as directed on the label. Reapply as suggested.
- Practice daily “full body” checks for ticks, and remove any attached ticks.
- Shower or bathe within a few hours of being outdoors.
- Keep gardens tidy and landscaped if you live near a wooded area.
Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent Lyme disease in humans.
Here are some great resources on Lyme Disease if you want to find out more:
Lyme Disease Public Health Ontario