Associate Professor of Veterinary Entomology at The University of Manitoba Kateryn Rochon said tick season is a bit delayed this year, due to cooler temperatures. She said peak season is in June and July with a cooling-off period over August, reminding us black-legged ticks return at the end of September into October and stay until the snow falls.
"The thing with ticks is that they can transmit some pathogens. The black legged ticks can transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease or another bacterium that causes granulocytic anaplasmosis, for example, and both two are present in Manitoba, so there is an added level of danger, if you will, but the goal is to try not to get a tick bite in the first place."
Rochon recognized while most insect bites can normally leave a red rash as a result of an allergic reaction to the insect saliva injected into the body, a red bullseye rash that is two inches or 5 cm wide and is growing or spreading, is a sign that a black-legged tick or nymph has bitten you and transmitted Lymes Disease. A bullseye rash is a common diagnostic trait of Lymes disease, but not everyone gets one. She went on to say not everyone bit by a nymph or deer tick will know they have been bitten, due to the small size of the insect, describing them as the same size as a poppy seed. If you suspect this is the case, Rochon suggested going to a doctor to have it confirmed and treated with antibiotics.
Her prevention recommendation, while effective, may not be popular.
"If you're walking around, maybe walking your dog or something, you want to wear closed shoes or boots even. It's not very popular, but long pants and then have your socks tucked over your pants, because ticks are going to get to ground level, and they're going to get on your shoes or your boots, and then they're going to start crawling up. So, if they get on your boot, then they get on your socks, and your socks are on top of your pants, they'll stay on your pants. If your socks are under your pants, like normal people, then the tick will continue walking on your socks, under your pants, and then get access to your skin right away."
Rochon shared insect repellents used for mosquitos such as Deet and Picaridin (Icaridin) are also effective at reducing the chance of a tick bite. Picaridin is a repellent that doesn't have the bad smell found in Deet products and is safer for children and animals. If you are not comfortable applying the repellent all over your body, she recommends focusing on the lower portion of the body, like feet, ankles and legs where the ticks begin their journey.
If you find yourself with a tick attached to your skin, remain calm, there is a technique she suggests to remove it.
"You can use your fingers, but it's a lot easier if you have fine-nosed tweezers and then take a good firm hold off the tick, but as close to this skin as possible. The idea here is to not press on the body too much. You want to just stay really close to the skin and pull straight up you slowly. Your skin is going to make a little tent and the tick will just pop out."
Rochon wanted to debunk a common myth.
"Sometimes people will say ticks come from oak trees, or they jump on you from trees. That's because, very often, people will find ticks around their hairline or on their head. Ticks do not jump, they do not have the musculature, they can't jump, but they are at ground level. So, when we find them all the way in your hairline, it's because they've climbed the whole way up. That's why if you're outside, it's a good habit to, once in a while, just look down, look at your pants, and try to see if anything is crawling on you."
Dogs can get Lymes disease. If you are travelling to a sunny destination with your dog, Rochon concluded, it's a good idea to have tick protection to prevent unwanted "souvenirs" from coming home in their fur.
Etick.ca is a helpful resource recommended by Rochon to answer questions, show pictures and submit pictures of ticks for identification.