Removing and submitting ticks for testing
Learn how to identify and remove a tick from your body. Also find out how to submit a tick for identification and possible testing.
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Different types of ticks live in Canada. Some can transmit diseases while others are only a nuisance. Infected blacklegged ticks can transmit the bacterium that causes Lyme disease.
Removing ticks within 24-36 hours after the tick bite usually prevents infection. You can remove a tick that has latched onto you by following these steps.
- Using clean tweezers, grasp the head as close to the skin as possible and slowly pull straight out. Try not to twist or crush the tick.
- If the mouthparts break off and remain in the skin, remove them with tweezers or, if you are unable to remove them easily, leave them alone and let the skin heal. Consult your healthcare provider.
- Wash the bite area and yours hands with soap and water or disinfect with alcohol hand sanitizer.
- Try to save the tick that bit you in a sealed container and record the date of the bite. Bring it to your medical appointment as it may help the doctor in their assessment of your illness.
- Ticks can be disposed of in household garbage once they are dead, and they can be killed by drowning them in rubbing alcohol or by freezing for several hours. Avoid squashing ticks with exposed fingers.
- Don't try to remove the tick by using nail polish, petroleum jelly or heat to burn the tick.
Visit your health care provider as soon as possible if:
- you are not comfortable with removing a tick
- you cannot remove the tick because it has buried itself deep into your skin
If you develop symptoms of Lyme disease after being bitten, contact your health care provider right away. Tell them:
- how long you think the tick was attached to you
- where you were when you were bitten by the tick
If you cannot submit the tick for testing right away (details on submitting ticks follow in the next section), then:
- Save the tick in a plastic bag that you can seal or a pill bottle. Record the location and date of the bite.
- Store the container for up to 10 days in the:
- refrigerator, for live ticks
- freezer, for dead ticks
Submitting ticks for testing
Submitting a tick for identification and testing will not lead to a diagnosis or treatment. However, this information helps to understand:
- how blacklegged ticks have spread in Canada
- the risk of human exposure to infected blacklegged ticks
Submitting ticks to a provincial public health laboratory
If possible, send any ticks that you have removed to a public health laboratory in your area. However, tick identification and testing is not done in all provinces of Canada.
The following provinces accept submissions:
- British Columbia
- accepts tick submissions and performs its own tick testing
- New Brunswick
- Prince Edward Island
- Newfoundland and Labrador (PDF)
Contact your local public health authority for details on:
- the tick identification and testing program available in your area
- how to submit a tick for testing
The public health laboratory will:
- identify the tick
- forward only blacklegged ticks to the National Microbiology Laboratory (NML) for testing
Submitting ticks to the National Microbiology Laboratory (NML)
If you live in a province that does not accept ticks for testing, it may be possible to send ticks directly to the NML; however, please contact the laboratory via email or phone (below) before submitting the specimens.
To submit to the NML, follow these steps:
- Place the tick into an airtight plastic container to protect the tick during shipping. The container should be big enough to hold the tick without damaging it. Also make sure the container has a top that fastens securely (for example, a pill bottle). Transfer the tick to the container using tweezers, gloves or other protection.
- Label the container with the following information:
- your name
- where and when the tick was collected
- what the tick was removed from (human, dog or cat)
- Complete the Passive Surveillance for Blacklegged ticks submission form. The submission form must be included with your tick shipment.
- Prepare the container and submission form for shipping:
- use a Government of Canada-approved mailing container or cardboard box
- pad the container with bubble wrap, packing chips or paper towels to prevent it from breaking
- use an envelope or plastic bag to protect the submission form
- seal the mailing container with tape
- Courier or mail the package to the NML at the following mailing address:
Field Studies - Zoonotic Diseases and Special Pathogens
National Microbiology Laboratory
1015 Arlington Street
Winnipeg, Manitoba R3E 3R2
It takes 2 to 6 weeks for the NML to:
- identify the tick
- test the tick
- release the results
If you have any questions, please contact the NML:
- at 204-789-2000
- by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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