Preventing tick encounters and tick-borne diseases

Planning ahead can help prevent tick encounters and the diseases they carry. Here are a few important steps you can take to help keep yourself and your loved ones safe.

Before heading outdoors

  1. Ticks are more visible on light coloured clothing and ticks crawl up. Wearing long pants tucked into socks, long shirts and a hat can reduce skin exposure. Consider clothing that is treated with Permethrin
  2. Apply insect repellent before heading outdoors and carry a small container in your pack or glove box to reapply if needed. It’s important to follow the instructions for yourself and for use with children. Repellents that contain Icaridin and Deet are proven to work against ticks.
  3. Carry a tick removal kit or pointy tweezers and a sealed container to ensure safe and timely removal and storage of an embedded tick. Learn how to safely remove a tick before heading out and if bitten, save the tick for identification and further testing.
  4. Although ticks can be found Canada-wide, some areas present an increased risk of contracting Lyme disease and other tick-borne infections. Research the risk in your area, and plan ahead when you travel within Canada or internationally. Consider all data, including the Geneticks tick map.
  5. Using tick treatments on pets can help keep pets and their people safe too.

While you’re out

  1. Stay on groomed pathways when possible. Ticks quest by climbing up vegetation and waiting for a host to attach to.
  2. Check your skin and clothing occasionally, keeping in mind that ticks can be as small as a poppy seed. You may not feel them on you or feel their bite. 
  3. Reapply insect repellent as needed.

When you get home

  1. Place clothes in the dryer for 10-15 minutes on high heat to kill ticks that may have hitched a ride on your clothing.
  2. Check for ticks on your skin, including your scalp, keeping in mind that ticks like to hide. You may feel a tick before seeing one and if possible have someone check your back as well. Taking a shower may help remove ticks that haven’t latched on and can be an important part of your daily tick check routine.
  3. Don’t forget to check your children and pets. A lint roller may be helpful in removing ticks from your pet’s fur, but not those that have latched on to their skin.

If you’ve been bitten

  1. It’s important to remove the tick safely and as soon as possible. Keep the tick for identification and testing, and take photos of the tick and bite area.
  2. Talk with your doctor about treatment options. Although single dose antibiotic treatment after a tick bite may prevent a bullseye rash or positive Lyme test, there is no robust long term data to indicate that it prevents Lyme disease. 
  3. Be on alert for the early signs of Lyme disease; they can be mistaken for the flu. The first symptoms can include fever and chills, muscle or joint pain, headache, a rash and fatigue. Although not everyone has a rash after a tick bite, it’s important to check everywhere on your body for one. An expanding rash that may or may not look like a bullseye can help with early diagnosis. 

Check for ticks after being outside

Regular tick checks are a way to check your body for crawling or embedded ticks. Check everywhere including these hotspots.

An illustration of a person with red circles over the hot spots where ticks are drawn, like armpits, neck, and groin.
Figure of tick hotspots on a human body.

Being prepared and aware can help prevent tick encounters, and help keep you healthy and active in the outdoors!