Preventing Lyme disease
Remember, No Tick is a Good Tick. Any tick that will bite a human may carry various infectious pathogens. Ticks can feed on a number of wild animals picking up infectious pathogens.
Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases are for the most part preventable.
By taking the right precautions and spreading the word, you can effectively protect your family from Lyme.
The best way to prevent infection is to avoid tick-infested areas whenever possible, particularly in spring and early summer when nymph ticks feed. Adult ticks are a bigger threat in fall. Ticks that transmit Lyme disease favour moist, shaded environments; especially leafy wooded areas and overgrown grassy habitats.
Also you can read this Nova Scotia prevention document that is relevant Canada-wide.
Make your home and property tick safe. Indoor/outdoor pets will carry ticks into your home. Bird feeders will attract birds who are carrying ticks onto your property so do not have bird feeders or bird houses on your property.
Landscape your property to discourage ticks. Robert Brown at the University of Guelph in Ontario published an extensive paper on landscaping to reduce ticks. “Ticks were found to be five times more abundant on lawns adjacent to woods than on lawns adjacent to other lawns (Carroll et al., 1992), and the relative abundance of nymphal ticks decreased with distance from the edge of the woods.” Also, popular landscaping shrubs can actually increase your risk of Lyme disease as they provide effective shelter from predators for mice that harbour ticks.
As for products that can be used to defend against ticks, read this interesting article comparing products containing DEET and those using permethrin.
Canada, though it continually says it is concerned about the spread of Lyme disease, has not endorsed products that have been shown to be more effective.
Permethrin is an insecticide and treated or sprayed clothing is presently available to Canadian adults as No Fly Zone Clothing available from Mark’s. This clothing is labeled for ticks in other countries [just not in Canada] but it will work on ticks. Other brands of factory treated clothing for ticks are not allowed to be sold to Canadians although they have worldwide acceptance for efficacy in most other countries -just not in Canada. The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends Canadians who are travelling abroad to countries that have ticks and other insect vectors purchase factory treated clothing and 0.5% permethrin sprays. Canada’s armed forces use permethrin sprays. Permethrin spray is available over the counter or Internet for a variety of other pests like ants. These same products can be sprayed on footwear and clothing and will last for up to 42 days and 5-6 washes to kill ticks. Spraying footwear and tucking pants into socks that have also been sprayed or treated has been shown to reduce tick bites by 74%. Permethrin will cling to fabric but is neutralized by skin oils within 20 minutes and that is why it is not used on skin except for children’s head lice preparations. For much more detailed instructions on the use of permethrin see”: Prevention of Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases, Nova Scotia; Resources, References and Links
“Icaridin is considered to be the repellent of first choice by the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Canadian Advisory Committee on Tropical Medicine and Travel for travellers six months to 12 years of age. Products containing up to 20% icaridin are considered to be safe and efficacious.” This recommendation should encourage Health Canada to allow Natrapel with 20% icaridin to be sold in Canada, like many other countries including the United States, as currently only Natrapel without icaridin is available to Canadians in Canadian stores.
Icaridin (also called picaridin) is good for adults as well. In Canada, Woods™ spray containing icaridin is available at Canadian Tire and you can source where to buy Icaridin based repellents by doing a quick internet search. The 20% spray, not lotion, is the most effective studies have shown.
Spray exposed skin, clothing inside and out and footwear as well.
Do tick checks on your clothes and skin when out doors. Tiny ticks can be hard to get off clothes so using the sticky side of duct tape will help pull those nasty creatures off.
If you or your children have been outside playing, enjoying nature, or working, remove any visible ticks off your clothes and then put your clothes immediately into the clothes dryer first, then wash.
Professor T. Mather at the University of Rhode Island… “We showed that nymphal blacklegged ticks [a.k.a. deer ticks] were the most sensitive to dessication (easiest to kill in dryer) of all tested, followed by adult deer ticks, nymphal Lone Star ticks, and then adult Lone Star ticks and Am. dog ticks. We found that gas dryers ran a little hotter and that as little as 5 minutes was sufficient to kill the deer ticks but that to kill all of the Lone Stars and dog ticks, 10 minutes was required. For good measure, 10 minutes in the electric dryer for all was recommended (but probably overkill). We had temperature records as well. Ours were field-collected ticks. We applaud Jacqueline’s innovation; her observation is consistent with our findings…” Dry first then wash.
CanLyme suggests 15 minutes on high heat for gas dryers and 20 minutes for electric dryers.
Top 5 tick habitat precautions
- Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts. Tuck your pants into your socks to prevent ticks from getting inside your pants.
- Check your clothes for ticks often. Ticks will climb upwards until they find an area of exposed skin.
- Wear light coloured clothing to make it easier to spot ticks.
- Walk on pathways or trails when possible staying in the middle. Avoid low-lying brush or long grass.
- Apply insect repellent to your skin and clothing, especially at the openings such as ankle, wrist and neck.
Tick ID & Removal
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.
- Have hard-shelled brown and black bodies, but appear grey when engorged
- Have 8 legs as adults and nymphs, larvae (baby ticks) have only 6
- Are 1–5 mm long, but adults can grow up to 20 mm when feeding
Protect your family from Lyme. Learn how to identify various tick species and how to properly remove them if bitten.
Identifying ticks Safe tick removal
Lyme disease is known as a “tick-borne illness”. This means that Lyme-infected ticks spread the disease to people by biting them. While tick transmission is most common, new studies indicate that there may be other ways to contract Lyme.
Other potential transmission methods
- Contaminated blood transfusions
- Mosquito bites
- In utero (during pregnancy) or while breastfeeding
- Fluid exchange during intercourse
- Exposure to feces from animals/people infected with Lyme