Prevention of Lyme disease

Learn how you can prevent Lyme disease and how to reduce tick habitats near your home.

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How can you prevent Lyme disease?

The best way to protect against Lyme disease is to prevent tick bites. Check the detailed risk areas map to find out where infected ticks are most likely to be found. Remember, as tick populations spread, the risk of acquiring Lyme disease will occur outside these areas in the future. Ticks can be dispersed out of these areas by migratory birds so there is a low risk of being bitten by a tick outside of the known risk areas.

It is recommended that Canadians travelling to highly Lyme endemic areas of the US and Europe, apply permethrin treatments to their clothing or use clothing pre-treated with permethrin. These products can be obtained in some travel clinics or from outdoors retailers when in the US.

Ticks can be infected with more than one type of bacteria that can cause human illness. Guarding against tick bites will protect you from more than just Lyme disease.

Here are some ways to protect yourself if you venture into wooded or forested areas within risk areas for Lyme disease:

  • Wear light coloured long-sleeved shirts and pants to spot ticks more easily
  • Tuck your shirt into your pants, and pull your socks over your pant legs
  • Use bug spray containing DEET or Icaridin on your skin and clothing (always follow the directions on the label)
  • Walk on cleared paths or walkways
  • Shower or bathe within two hours of being outdoors to facilitate a prompt tick check and to remove ticks that have not attached yet
  • Do a daily full-body check for ticks on yourself and your children, especially in the hair, under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs and around the waist
  • If you find an attached tick, remove it with tweezers immediately. Removing it within 24-36 hours can help prevent infection.
  • Do a tick check on your outdoor gear and your pets as they could carry ticks inside your home
  • Put dry outdoor clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill any remaining 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.

How can you reduce tick habitats near your home?

Here are some ways to limit exposure to ticks near your home:

  • Mow the lawn regularly to keep the grass short
  • Remove leaf litter, brush and weeds at the edge of the lawn and around stonewalls and woodpiles
  • Stack firewood neatly and in a dry area
  • Put barriers to exclude deer around your home and seal stonewalls and small openings to discourage rodent activity
  • Place children's recreational playground sets, patios and decks away from the yard edges and trees. Place them on a woodchip or mulch foundation and in a sunny location, if possible.
  • Treat pets that are commonly exposed to ticks with oral or topic acaricides (as recommended by your veterinarian) as they could carry ticks into the home

What should you do if you get bitten by a blacklegged tick?

Ticks attach themselves to the skin. Most humans are infected through the bite of immature ticks called nymphs. Adult ticks can also transmit Lyme disease bacteria. Their bite is usually painless, so you may not know you've been bitten.

If you notice a tick has attached itself, remove it as soon as possible. Removing ticks within 24 to 36 hours usually prevents infection. Follow these steps to learn how to properly remove a tick.

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