Tick season in Manitoba: How to protect yourself from bites

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Winter is finally over! Lovely warm weather is here. It’s the season for gardening and walking outside (remember to maintain physical distancing) but it’s also the season for ticks.

What are ticks?

Ticks are arachnids, which means that they are part of the spider family. Unlike insects, they have eight legs. Ticks need blood meals to complete their life cycles and they get this by biting different animals, including humans. There are around 800 species all over the world but we especially avoid blacklegged ticks – these are carriers of Lyme disease, anaplasmosis and babesiosis (a malaria-like illness). They come out from early spring to late fall in Manitoba.

How to prevent tick bites:

The Winnipeg Health Region encourages Manitobans to:

  1. learn where ticks are located
  2. minimize risk of exposure
  3. recognize the signs and symptoms of Lyme disease

Learn where ticks are located

Generally, ticks can be found in wooded or brushy places outdoors where there is moisture. “They can be found within and along the edge of forests and in areas with thick, woody shrubs and other vegetation” (Winnipeg Regional Health Authority). There are also specific Blacklegged Tick Risk Areas in Manitoba where this type of tick is more likely to be found. They may be found in other places as well, but the risk of Lyme disease is relatively low outside of the risk areas.

Minimize risk of exposure

If you live near a wooded area and plan to do some walking, minimize risk by doing the following:

  1. Wear closed toe shoes and cover exposed skin.
  2. Wear socks.
  3. Tuck in your long-sleeved shirt into your pants.
  4. Dress in light coloured clothing.
  5. Walk in the centre of trails and avoid tall vegetation.
  6. Use an appropriate insect repellent like DEET or Icaridin (or Picaridin).
    • Use as directed by the manufacturer.
    • Don’t spray directly to your face.
    • Don’t use products that contain both insect repellent and sunscreen.
    • If you need sunscreen, apply it first. Apply the repellent after about 15 minutes.
    • You can re-apply repellent especially if you are being bitten or when exposure is more likely.
  7. Check your skin (and hair) for ticks after you’ve been outdoors. Don’t forget to check your kids and pets.
  8. Take a shower or bath within two hours of your return.

Recognize the symptoms of Lyme disease

Symptoms of tick-borne illness:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Sore joints
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Insomnia

Symptoms can start from about three days to one month after a bite. A circular rash can also form. It will look like a bulls-eye with an intense circular rash within a bigger circle. However, not everyone infected will have this rash.

If you see a tick on your skin, don’t squash it. It could go deeper and it will be harder to remove. Use a tweezer to carefully pick it up without twisting. Be careful not to break its body and leave the head in your skin. Put it in a jar or plastic bag. Take a photo of the tick and submit it to Manitoba Tick Checker to have it examined. You can also use the free eTick program (download the app or use it online). Just answer a few questions about where and when you found the tick. A provincial expert will identify the species and send an email to let you know whether there is any medical relevance to the species and what you should do next (The new program helping Manitobans quickly identify ticks, CTV News).

See your doctor immediately if you think that you may have contracted a tick-borne disease. These types of diseases are treatable especially in the early stages of infection.
Article updated April 13, 2021.
Sources: Take precautions to minimize tick exposure, WRHA; About Blacklegged ticks, Manitoba Health, Seniors and Active Living; Lyme group expects bad tick year in Manitoba, Laura Glowacki, CBC News. All accessed on May 4, 2017.

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