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Now that spring has sprung, it's time to have the tick talk (2 photos)

Curator of zoology Andrew Hebda recommends checking all your cracks and crevices after spending time in the outdoors
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The snow has melted, the temperatures are rising and the birds and bees have returned, which means it's time to have the tick talk.

With more people spending time out enjoying the outdoors, officials are asking Nova Scotians to take precautions.

The curator of zoology at the Nova Scotia Museum says there are 16 species of ticks found in the province, only four of which you're likely to encounter.

However, Andrew Hebda told NEWS 95.7's The Rick Howe Show, the blacklegged tick is the one you have to worry about.

"Essentially all ticks can carry diseases if they pick them up from the host they've been feeding, but most of them don't transmit those," he explained. "From the point of view of Lyme disease ... there's only one species, which is the blacklegged tick, or as we used to call it, the deer tick."

The good news is, not all blacklegged ticks carry Lyme disease.

Hebda said freshly hatched larvae haven't yet fed, so they haven't had a chance to pick up any diseases. Once they reach adulthood, only half of ticks are potential carriers.

He explained male ticks can loosely attach to a human but "only the females will feed on a host."

Ticks are found in or near woods, shrubs, and long grass.

Listen to Rick Howe's conversation with Andrew Hebda:

The Department of Health recommends wearing light coloured clothing, including long sleeves, pants tucked into socks and enclosed shoes in order to reduce your risk of contact. They also recommend using insect repellant with DEET or Icaridin.

It's also important to do a thorough tick check after outdoor activities; including armpits, breast line, groin, waist, around ears, behind knees, in your hair and essentially all your cracks and crevices.

"And the one place most people have difficulty checking, can I say the buttcrack?" asked Hebda "If you're very good with mirrors, maybe have somebody give you a hand. If you've been in a tick habitat it's worth checking because they're looking for areas they're not necessarily going to get dislodged."

If you do find a tick on you, the health department recommends taking the following measures to remove it safely:

  • Carefully grasp the tick with tweezers – the pointier, the better - as close to the skin as possible.
  • Gently and slowly pull the tick straight out of the skin. Do not jerk, twist or squeeze it.
  • Once the tick is removed, clean the area of the bite with soap and water, rubbing alcohol, or hydrogen peroxide to avoid other infections.
  • Make a note of the date and where on the body the bite occurred. This will be important if you, or a loved one, begin to feel unwell.

Hebda said it's important to not use nail polish, petroleum jelly or heat to burn the tick.

"The first thing that they'll do, their response will be to empty their guts into you," he explained. 

Once removed and killed -- the Government of Canada recommends drowning in rubbing alcohol or freezing for several hours -- ticks can be sent to the Nova Scotia Museum.

"You can either take a cell phone picture of the tick, you can bring the tick in or put it in the mail -- tape it to a piece of paper by the way, it's a lot cheaper than sending a vial -- and then will give you an identification as to what the species is and what stage it is," he said.

The health department says a blacklegged tick needs to be attached for at least 24 to 36 hours to transmit Lyme disease.

One early and common symptom is a bull's-eye rash that appears in the spot of the bite.

Other symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches
  • Joint paint
  • Headaches



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Meghan Groff

About the Author: Meghan Groff

Born in Michigan, raised in Ontario, schooled in Indiana & lives in Nova Scotia; Meghan is the community editor for HalifaxToday.ca.
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