It’s shaping up to be a bad year for ticks in Nova Scotia, according to Bedford Lyme advocate Donna Lugar.
Later this month, she will be presenting at a tick prevention webinar hosted by Hike Nova Scotia.
“Ticks are really bad so far this year, and people are finding them all over the province,” she says. “It’s prime time for them and we have to be careful.”
There are at least 14 different species of ticks that have been found in Nova Scotia, but only a few bite humans. These include the blacklegged tick -- which used to be called the deer tick -- the dog tick -- also known as the wood tick -- and occasionally the Lonestar tick.
Only an infected blacklegged tick carries the bacteria that causes Lyme disease; however, this isn’t the only threatening disease caused by ticks.
“You do not want a tick to attach,” says Lugar. “No tick that will actually bite you is a good tick.”
The province has yet to release numbers of confirmed or probable cases of Lyme disease reported in 2020. In 2019, there were 830, up from 454 in 2018.
Lugar says there are several ways to reduce your risk of contracting a tick-borne illness, like wearing light coloured, long pants to more easily see ticks. She also suggests tucking your pants into your socks. This means the ticks have further to walk before reaching skin.
“Carrying a small lint brush if you are going to be out a lot is a good idea, so you can roll over your clothes and skin and pick up any ticks that may not have attached yet,” she says.
Lugar emphasizes the importance of regular tick checks.
“We need to be out in nature getting fresh air, but dealing with ticks should be a daily routine like dealing with sun and like dealing with COVID,” she says.
If a tick is embedded in your body, safe removal is key.
Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin's surface as possible, then pull upward with steady, even pressure.
“You do not want to squeeze the body of the tick,” says Lugar. “You don’t want to twist them around, put anything on them, burn them, or anything else that might make them regurgitate what they are carrying into you.”
Ticks in Nova Scotia can be identified with the citizen science tool eTick.
Lugar was diagnosed with tick-borne diseases 10 years ago, and since that time has founded the Nova Scotia Lyme Support Group and has become the Nova Scotia representative of CanLyme.
Hike Nova Scotia has invited Lugar to speak at a webinar on April 28.
“This is part of educating people, hopefully managing their fears about ticks, and letting them know that there are some pretty simple things they can do to avoid them,” says Hike Nova Scotia’s Executive Director, Janet Barlow. “We don’t want anxiety of ticks to be a barrier to enjoying the outdoors.”
Visit Hike Nova Scotia’s website to register for the event.