Ticks are small biting creatures that can range in size from as small as a grain of sand to as large as a match head. Ticks are found throughout the world and can transmit a number of viral and bacterial infections from relatively minor, to very serious. For example, African tick bite fever, which is caused by a bacterial (Rickettsia) infection from a tick, is the most frequent cause of fever among travellers returning from South Africa. Ontario-bound travellers risk a more dangerous tick infection, Lyme disease, from the bacterium, Borrelia.
Travellers to areas where tick borne diseases are present, including the Lyme disease areas of Canada, should use insect repellent (diligently) on exposed surfaces, especially legs and ankles, and should carry out an examination of all body surfaces for ticks (tick check) at the end of each day of possible exposure. While it may hurt your chances of winning the best-dressed award, tick infections can often be prevented by tucking your pants into your socks.
What to do when you find a tick on your body?
If you find a tick on your body, it’s important to remove it safely, here are some tips:
Step #1: Using fine-tipped tweezers, grab the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
Step #2: Pull upward with slow, steady, even pressure.
Step #3: After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, or if you don't have access to rubbing alcohol, use soap and warm water.
Helpful tip: According to some experts, an alternative approach to removing a tick found on one’s body is to touch a hot match head (blow the match out first, please) to the tick to release its hold before removing it with tweezers – this should make it easy to remove.
If you are bitten by a tick in a Lyme disease area, and were able to remove the tick from your body, it may be desirable to save the tick in an tight-seal container and store it for future lab analysis - please make sure it is stored away from children and in such a way that the tick can not escape. This way, if needed, the tick that bit you can be tested for Lyme disease to support diagnosis - the tick doesn't need to stay alive to be tested in a lab.
If you have been bitten by a tick while visiting an area where tick-borne disease are present, and you develop symptoms of tick-borne disease including Lyme disease (such as a rash, fever, or flu-like symptoms), visit your doctor - don't wait.
Dr. Jay Keystone answers the question, "why should you come to Medisys for your next pre-travel health consultation?"