Know Your Ticks
Prevention is key; spray yourself and always do your tick checks.
Ticks can spread debilitating and sometimes deadly diseases, so it is important to be able to identify different types of ticks and know what diseases each one can carry.
Currently, in Canada there are three ticks to be aware and wary of. The blacklegged tick, the lone star and the wood tick.
It is important if you are bitten by a tick and are "lucky" enough to actually see the tick on you that you are able to identify it. That way your doctor can provide you with the correct treatment right away.
The blacklegged tick is the smallest of the three ticks and may be the most dangerous as they can carry up to 7 different diseases that can vary from mild to severe to life threatening. Blacklegged ticks are best known for carrying borellia bacteria, better known as Lyme disease. These little guys can be as tiny as a poppy seed, and they secrete small amounts of anesthetic in their saliva, making it easy for tick bites to go unnoticed. They also tend to embed themselves in hard to spot places like the groin, armpit and scalp, making detection quite difficult.
The lone star tick is the new tick in town. This is a very fascinating and disturbing tick, mainly because one bite can make you viciously allergic to meat, inducing what is called the alpha-gal allergy. Alpha-gal is a sugar found in red meat such as cow, pig, lamb, etc. Normally, we eat meat, digest and process it, but a bite from a lone star tick causes our body to produce antibodies to this particular sugar and our immune system responds by trying to rid the body of the substance now recognized as harmful. The alpha-gal allergy is anaphylactic in nature, causing life threatening constricted airways and low blood pressure. There is still a lot to learn about the alpha-gal allergy as the link between the lone star tick and meat allergy was only recognized in 2007. To date we don't have a cure for this infliction except to avoid red meat.
The wood tick, also known as the dog tick, is often found in wooded areas and can be found all across Canada. They are the largest of the three ticks listed and can be identified by their hard, wide, oval body with flattened top. The males have a speckled grey coloration on their backs and are about 3.6 mm long when not engorged with blood. Females are generally larger than males, measuring about 5 mm long when unfed, and 15 mm long and 10 mm wide when engorged. The wood tick is best known for passing along Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF), a bacterial disease that, if not treated early with the right antibiotic, can rapidly progress to a life threatening illness. Some of the early signs are fever, headache, rash, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, muscle pain and lack of appetite. Not everybody will show these signs and may present only one or two symptoms making it difficult to recognize right away. Once you are diagnosed with RMSF your doctor will likely prescribe Doxycycline.