The May long weekend falls in the middle of tick season in Saskatchewan, and this year seems to be an exceptionally bad year. But, with a little knowledge and a few simple precautions, you don’t have to let ticks ruin your long-weekend plans.
Ticks in Saskatchewan
Ticks are typically found in wooded areas, tall grasses or bush in both rural and urban centres. The American dog tick, also known as “wood ticks”, are the most common type of tick found in Saskatchewan and are not carriers of Lyme disease.
In Saskatchewan blacklegged ticks, or “deer ticks”, are occasionally found in the promise and a small percentage of them may be infected with the agent that causes Lyme disease. These ticks only make up 0.3 per cent of the tick population in Saskatchewan.
Avoiding tick bites
If you are planning on heading out for a hike, going camping or engaging in any other outdoor activity, the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health recommends a few, simple precautions to avoid being bitten by a tick:
- Wear light-coloured clothing, long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks, enclosed shoes or boots and a hat when outdoors.
- Tuck pants into socks.
- Use insect repellent containing DEET on exposed skin and clothing; follow the directions carefully.
- When hiking, stay on paths and avoid contact with overgrown brush.
When you return home, or before bed (when camping), make sure that you perform a “tick check.” Ticks like warmer areas on the body, so make sure you look everywhere.
Make sure to check your children and your pets as well.
What to do if you’ve been bitten
If you discover that you have been bitten by a tick, you need to remove it as soon as possible. There are a lot of wives’ tales out there about the best way to remove a tick, but the Saskatoon Health Region recommends the following steps:
- Do not apply mineral oil, vaseline or anything else to remove the tick as this may cause it to inject germs into the wound.
- Use fine-tipped tweezers and grasp the mouth of the tick as close as possible to the skin and pull upward and out with a firm and steady pressure. Do not jerk or twist the tick.
Save your ticks!
Yes, that’s right – save your ticks.
The Ministry of Health reports that they are seeing more deer ticks in the prairies, and that the number continues to grow. To keep track of this issue, as well as populations and migration patterns in Saskatchewan, the government asks that you save the tick in a double freezer bag or pill bottle with a piece of moist (not wet) paper towel and submit it for testing. You can submit your ticks to the Chilton Parasitology Laboratory through the Biology Department at the U of S.