Most ticks in the Thunder Bay District are wood ticks, but the reported number of deer ticks is growing. While wood ticks are harmless, deer ticks have the potential to carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. Due to the small number of deer ticks in the District, the risk of contracting Lyme disease is low. However, the Health Unit recommends taking safety measures to prevent tick bites.
Click on the links below learn more about ticks and Lyme disease:
Wood ticks are the most common tick in our area. Female wood ticks have a white hood or shield behind their head. Male wood ticks have a black and brown shell. They are harmless to humans but can be a nuisance.
Deer ticks have the potential to carry Lyme disease. They are brown or black with no white markings. Females may have a coloured body. Due to milder winters, an increasing number of deer ticks have been identified in the Thunder Bay District.
You will need a pair of fine-tipped tweezers, soap and water, some rubbing alcohol and an empty container.
1. Remove the tick.
- Use the fine-tipped tweezers to grab the head and mouth as close to the skin as possible.
- Pull up slowly until the tick is completely removed from the skin.
- Do not twist or turn. Try not to damage the tick so it can be easily identified.
- Do not try to burn the tick or use anything to smother it (e.g. Vaseline®).
- Make sure the whole tick is removed.
- Put the tick in a clean container or empty pill bottle. Mark down the date and the geographic location of where the tick bite happened.
2. Treat the bite.
- Wash the area with soap and water and then apply rubbing alcohol.
3. Bring the tick to the Health Unit for identification.
- Thunder Bay: Drop off at the 999 Balmoral Street office.
- Outside of Thunder Bay: Drop off at the nearest Health Unit branch office.
Ticks are very hardy, difficult to kill and will survive without feeding and with little oxygen. If you are planning an outside activity, there are some some tips you can follow. These tips are even more important if you are planning a trip to an area with lots of ticks, or if you are out in the bush during the spring when ticks are most active.
1. Avoid places with long grasses. If you are hiking or walking, stay in the centre of the trail.
2. Wear light coloured clothing to make it easier to find the ticks.
3. Wear clothing that covers as much skin as possible.
- Long sleeved shirts that fit tightly around your wrists
- Long pants tucked into your socks.
4. Use an insect repellant with DEET. Click here for a fact sheet from Health Canada, including guidelines for use (infants, children, adults and pregnant women)
5. Check yourself, your children and your pets for ticks after being outdoors.
- Check before you go into your house.
- Check head to toe.
- Check underneath your clothes, next to your skin.
6. Have a hot shower after checking for ticks, if possible.
7. Wash your clothes with hot water and use the hottest setting on your dryer to kill any ticks that you may have missed.
Lyme disease is a serious illness that affects the central nervous system, the cardiovascular system (e.g. heart and lungs), and the joints. Although Lyme disease in humans can have serious symptoms, it can be treated if it is noticed early enough.
Bacteria that are spread through the bite of infected deer ticks cause lyme disease. Deer ticks feed on infected animals (e.g. mice, squirrels, birds) and pick up the bacteria. The deer ticks then spread the disease to humans through a bite.
Lyme disease is not spread directly from person-to-person or from pet-to-person by touching or kissing.
Tick bites are usually painless and most people don’t even realize they have been bitten. The signs and symptoms of Lyme disease are different from person to person.
In some cases, the first sign of infection may be a “bulls-eye rash”. This rash can show up any time from 3 days to 1 month after the bite.
Other symptoms might include:
- Fatigue or exhaustion (e.g. being very tired)
- Muscle and joint pain
- Swollen lymph nodes (e.g. under the jawbone, in the armpits)
If the infection goes undetected, the symptoms could get worse and include:
- Skin rashes
- Arthritis and arthritic symptoms (e.g. achy, stiff and swollen joints)
- Heart palpitations (e.g. heart all of a sudden beats very quickly, or very slowly)
- Extreme fatigue or exhaustion
Many antibiotics are effective in treating Lyme disease, especially when treatment starts early.
Click here to download the Health Unit's new brochure - "Ticks and Lyme Disease".
Click here to download the Health Unit's "Ticks and Lyme Disease" poster.
For more information about ticks and Lyme disease, please call a Public Health Inspector in the Infectious Disease program at 625-8318 or 1-888-294-6630, ext. 8318.
Click here to visit the Ontario Ministry of Health's website "Let's Target Lyme!" (French site, click here)
You can also visit these reliable websites and search under “Lyme disease” or “ticks”: