By Fran Cameron
Summer has arrived quickly in Almonte and the Mississippi Mills area. With the warm weather, the Almonte General Hospital (AGH) Emergency Department anticipates increased traffic from local residents, cottagers and visitors to the area.
One factor that has increased visits to the Emergency Department is bug bites—specifically tick bites.
The primary concern with tick bites is infection from Lyme disease, which can be spread by the blacklegged tick (formerly called a deer tick). Blacklegged ticks carrying Lyme disease have been found regularly within our geographical area of Mississippi Mills, Lanark, Leeds and Grenville. It is therefore important to take care to avoid tick bites, and to report to your family doctor if you think a tick has bitten you.
Signs and symptoms of Lyme disease include a red “bull’s eye” rash that occurs within three days and up to one month after the bite. The tick bite itself is usually painless. This bull’s eye rash may present in the area of the bite. Other symptoms are fever, chills, headache, fatigue or feeling like you have the flu. If you have any of these symptoms, it is important to see your health-care provider. Untreated Lyme disease can cause more serious problems affecting your nervous system, brain and/or heart.
To protect yourself from tick bites while still enjoying the beautiful countryside, you should take precautions. The ticks are found in tall grass or bushes, and can be carried by wild animals or birds. Wear light-coloured, long-sleeved shirts and long pants. Use bug repellant that contains DEET. Stay in the middle of the path while walking in the woods, and minimize contact with trees or long grass. After an outing, check clothes and pets for ticks, and shower immediately to remove ticks from your body.
If you find a tick on your skin, remove it promptly with a pair of tweezers. Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and gently pull it out, trying not to squeeze it or rub it off, as this may allow parts of the tick to remain embedded in the skin. Wash the area with soap and water after the tick is removed.
If you can, save the tick in a container and take it to your health care provider or local health unit for testing. If you develop any symptoms following a tick bite, please see your health-care practitioner immediately.
Best wishes for a happy and safe summer from the AGH Emergency Department!
Fran Cameron is Manager of Patient Flow, Emergency and Surgical Services at AGH.