Get Growing

Gardeners beware!
Lyme disease-causing
could be lurking
in your backyard


While not all black-legged ticks can cause Lyme disease, there has been an increase in the number of areas in Ontario where black-legged ticks have been identified or are known to exist.

“The number of confirmed cases of Lyme disease in the province has been rising since 2011,” explains Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health. “This is partly due to an expansion of black-legged tick populations to new areas, especially in wooded areas.”

Locations that have established black-legged tick populations include areas in eastern, southwestern, central and northwestern Ontario.

While the probability is low, it’s possible to encounter an infected tick almost anywhere in the province.

Black-legged ticks cannot fly, but settle on grass and bushes until they attach themselves to a person or animal. The ticks are known to feed on migratory birds and can be carried throughout the area.

What to do if you find a tick. Since many of us spend time outdoors to enjoy activities like hiking, camping, walking and gardening, it’s important to know what steps to take if you find a tick.

Blacklegged ticks can be as small as a poppy seed, almost invisible to the human eye, and can transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. Don’t panic – the best way to protect yourself is to prevent tick bites.

If you find an attached tick, remove it with tweezers immediately. Removing it right away helps to prevent infection. Store the tick in a sealed container and bring it to your doctor as it may help with a diagnosis.

Visit your healthcare professional immediately if you are not comfortable with removing the tick or you can’t remove it because it has buried itself deep into your skin. Be certain to go if you feel unwell or are concerned about your health following a tick bite.

Are your favourite outdoor summer spots at risk? Precautions should be taken if your hangouts are at risk for ticks. The risk of getting a tick bite increases when the weather warms up in the spring, through until the fall. Ticks can also be active in the winter, if the winter is mild and there is not much snow. However, the greatest risk occurs during the spring and summer months.

Ticks are most often found in wooded areas, shrubs, tall grass and leaf piles. With tick populations are spreading, it is also possible ticks could be found outside of these habitats.

Since ticks can carry more than one type of bacteria that can cause human illness, guarding against tick bites will help to protect you from more than just Lyme disease.

Enjoy the outdoors. Whether you love playing sports like golf and fishing or you like reading a book in the backyard, warm weather offers many opportunities to spend time outside. If your outdoor adventures take you near grassy, wooded or forested areas, here are some ways to protect yourself from getting bitten by a tick:

Choose the right clothes. Wearing light-coloured long-sleeved shirts and pants can help you spot ticks more easily, and closed toe shoes provide the best protection. For extra defence against ticks, tuck your shirt into your pants and pull your socks over your pant legs.

Protect yourself with bug spray. Choose one that contains deet or Icaridin and use it on your skin and clothing. Always follow the directions on the label and reapply as often as indicated. Once you’re outside, try to stay on cleared paths or walkways.

Do regular tick checks. Regular full-body checks for ticks on yourself and your children are important. Pay special attention in and around the ears and hair, under arms, inside the belly button and around the waist, behind knees and between legs and toes. Don’t forget to check your outdoor gear and pets too, as they could easily carry ticks inside your home.

Hit the water. Shower or bathe within two hours of being outdoors as part of your regular tick check and to remove ticks that haven’t attached yet. If you find an attached tick, remove it with tweezers immediately and wash the bite area and your  hands with soap and water to help prevent infection.

Use the power of heat. Put dry outdoor clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill any undetected ticks. If your clothes are damp, additional drying time is needed. If you need to wash your clothes first, hot water is recommended. If the clothes cannot be washed in hot water, tumble dry on low heat for 90 minutes or high heat for 60 minutes.

The Public Health Agency of Canada, in partnership with provincial and territorial public health organizations, conducts ongoing surveillance to help identify the spread of tick populations in Canada. For more information on risk areas near you, visit their website at

If you get bitten by a tick...

A Google search reveals that Lyme disease, also known as Lyme borreliosis, is an infectious disease caused by bacteria of the Borrelia type and is spread by ticks. Originally mistaken for juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, it was diagnosed as a separate condition for the first time in 1975 in Old Lyme, Connecticut.

The most common sign of infection is an expanding area of redness on the skin that begins at the site of a tick bite about a week after it has occurred. The rash is typically neither itchy nor painful and approximately 25–50 per cent of infected people do not develop a rash. Other early symptoms may include fever, headache and feeling tired. If untreated, symptoms may include loss of the ability to move one or both sides of the face, joint pains, severe headaches with neck stiffness, or heart palpitations, among others. Months to years later, repeated episodes of joint pain and swelling may occur. Occasionally, people develop shooting pains or tingling in their arms and legs. Despite appropriate treatment, about 10 to 20 per cent of people develop joint pains, memory problems, and feel tired for at least six months.