While kids are taking advantage of the nice weather by enjoying the outdoors, parents are being cautioned about the presence of blacklegged ticks in the city.
Last week, the Toronto District School Board sent a letter to parents advising them to take certain precautions if their children are playing in wooded and bushy areas, or if they’re on an end-of-year outdoor field trip.
Blacklegged ticks, also known as deer ticks, can be infected with bacteria that cause Lyme disease. Deer ticks found on Algonquin Island and Morningside Park were sent to a laboratory to test for bacteria, but results could take up to several weeks.
According to Toronto Public health, blacklegged ticks were also found last fall, suggesting that they’re becoming established in the city. However, the letter sent out to parents says that the risk of Lyme disease in Toronto is low.
Deer ticks are about the size of a poppy seed and are dark in colour, according to Wilson. Female deer ticks, which are the most common, will have a black patch on the back of their heads.
Toronto Public Health is advising people to wear light-coloured clothing when they’re in bushy areas so that ticks can be easily spotted. Long sleeves and long pants are recommended, but areas of the body uncovered should be sprayed with a bug repellent containing DEET.
Wilson said during hikes, people should stay in the middle of the trail to avoid brushing against bushy areas where ticks “hang out.” He also advises throwing clothes into the dryer for 15 minutes to kill off any possible ticks after outdoor activities.
A tick spotted on clothing or on the skin should be immediately removed.
Toronto Public Health says that transmission of Lyme disease requires a tick to be attached to the skin for at least 24 hours. Wilson says that early treatment is best and recommends seeing a doctor any time a deer tick is attached to the skin.
Ticks can also be submitted to Toronto Public Health for testing. Wilson says that ticks should be placed in a plastic bag with a small piece of paper towel moistened by two or three drops of water.