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The dangers of ticks

Now that the warm weather has come again, many of us are heading out into the great outdoors for hiking and camping. Most of us know the basics of protecting ourselves against various forest dwellers from mosquito to bear, but there is one danger that many people do not consider, and that is ticks.

Ticks can be found anywhere, from the outdoor wilds to your own backyard. I was bit by one last weekend! Depending on what study you read, anywhere between 10%-20% of ticks are infected with the bacterium linked to Lyme disease. They get this bacteria after they've fed on mice, squirrels, birds, and other animals that carry the bacteria themselves. Unlike mosquitoes that can infect with a single bite, a tick has to be attached to the body for at least 24 to 36 hours in order for the bacteria in the insect's gut to make it's way into replicating.

If you've been unlucky enough to have picked one up, there are safe and unsafe ways to remove a tick. Do not squash it, or apply matches, cigarettes or petroleum jellies to the tick as these may cause the infected tick to release the bacteria into the wound. The best way to remove it is to pull it out with a pair of tweezers. As explained by the CDC:

  • Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin's surface as possible.

  • Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don't twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.

  • After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.

If you have been bitten here are some symptoms to watch out for:

  • Fever

  • Headaches

  • Muscle Pain

  • Rash around the infected area

It is important to remember that symptoms can appear many weeks after the bite. These symptoms can be the onset of Lyme disease. If you have any of these symptoms it's important to visit the doctor as soon as possible to test for and treat the disease.

You can protect yourself against ticks by following these steps:

  • Wear light-coloured clothing. It makes ticks easier to see and remove.

  • Wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and closed footwear. You can also tuck your pants into your socks.

  • Use a tick repellent with "DEET". Apply it to your skin and outer clothing.

  • Examine yourself thoroughly for ticks after being outdoors. Use a mirror to check the back of your body.

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