Ticks, Lyme Disease and How To Protect Yourself


Like some of you, I read the incredible story that broke several weeks ago about the 9-year-old little boy in Connecticut who had a tick embed itself in his eardrum. According to a report in the New England Journal of Medicine co-authored by Dr. Erik Waldman and Dr. David Kasle 3 days before the boy was brought to the Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital, he had been hearing a very faint buzzing in his right ear as he played outdoors at his school.

Susan Scutti of CNN originally wrote the story on May 1st of this year, if you haven’t read it check it out, but that’s not why I’m ticked off, you see after reading that incredible and freighting story you would think that I would have been on high alert for ticks the rest of the summer or at least for the next few weeks right?


Well, you never think it’s going to happen to you until it does and then you ask yourself “why me”. In this case, the answer is quite simple, I’m a dummy! As someone who has been working in the outdoors shooting the Fish’n Canada Show for almost 40 years, I should be the last person on earth to go trouncing around the woods without taking proper precautions against ticks. Well like I said, some of us are just plain dumb and that’s why I’m ticked off!


I was recently out in the Long Sault Parkway area of Ontario marshaling a fishing event, the Fish’n Canada Carp Cup, and although I wore long pants and long sleeves, I didn’t spray myself with a repellent containing permethrin or deet, the only known chemicals that repel these nasty little parasites from hell called black-legged ticks also known as deer ticks. By now you’ve probably surmised, I became a host for this evil bloodsucker and consequently may have exposed myself to Lyme Disease. To make a bad situation even worst, my 16-year-old grandson Niki, who was with me at the time, may also have become infected. I say may have, because not all ticks are vectors for this relatively new scourge of humanity. However, according to Public Health Ontario, the risk areas in the province are rapidly growing each new year with the latest Hot Spot being, you guessed it, the Long Sault, Cornwall, Ottawa area. Most of the provinces are now reporting ticks at levels of concern. There is a great story on Global News website called Tick-Tock you should check out.


After carefully removing the ticks, thanks to some really good removal information on  WebMD.com, Nik and I decided that when we got back home we’d go in for the Lyme disease test however we weren’t going to wait for the results but rather, go on the 21 day treatment program as outlined by the CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and not take any chances. I suppose some of you may think that this course of action might be a little extreme but let me fill you in on some hard facts. First of all, according to most of the experts, the current test methodology has a 50/50 chance of being accurate on the first result, so much so that when you go in to have the test done they automatically schedule you in for a second test 10 days later. If both tests come back identical then the result is confirmed, however if both tests come back different then a new test is ordered 10 days after that, then it becomes a best two out of three series, they take the 2 identical test results as being accurate and throw out the bad one but even so, apparently there is a 20% chance that they’re still wrong. Meaning that by now almost 30 days have gone by since you were originally infected, and you still might not be properly diagnosed. The real concern here is according to the experts, the longer you wait to start treatments the more difficult it becomes to cure, in fact, most of the science says that the first 24 to 48 hours are critical. I don’t know about you but for Nik and me, it was a no brainer, 21 days of popping piles or a possible lifelong debilitating disease, pills it is.


As host of Outdoor Journal Radio, I have been closely following the Lyme disease story for the past 15 years or so and interviewed countless people who have been studying, diagnosing, treating and lecturing on this enigma scientifically know as Lyme borreliosis. As well, some of our guests have been people who had various levels of the infection, from freshly diagnosed positive to Katherine Maroun host of “What a Catch” television show who had been battling with Lyme for over 10 years. You can hear the interview on ODJRADIO.


All of this to say I should have known better but I didn’t, I let my guard down and now I’m hoping that this message will resonate with anyone who is exposed to the outdoors to take the precautions that are well documented on the Government of Canada’s Surveillance of Lyme disease, National Collaborating Center of Infectious Diseases, Public Health Ontario, E-tick.ca. All of these sites have a wealth of information on how to prevent, how to diagnose and how to cure Lyme disease and even how to properly remove ticks. Please use this article as a wakeup call. Don’t be a dummy like I was, be smart and enjoy the outdoors for years to come. In other words, do as I say not as I’ve done.

4 Replies to “Ticks, Lyme Disease and How To Protect Yourself”

  1. You mentioned permethrin but is it available in Canada for use on humans other than clothing treated as such? I know the OFAH is lobbying for its availability so things may have changed, Cant see why it has taken so long after all it is easily bought in the US.
    I know you can buy it for pets which is what I use to spray boots and pants, not on the skin. Deet is rather ineffective from what I have been told.


    These blood sucking parasitic arachnids as Angelo and his grandson Nik have experienced, are as dangerous as a “ticking” time bomb. Knowing your adversaries habits and behaviour patterns is the first line of defence when preyed upon by these tiny pests. So, let us begin there.

    As all other living creatures of the animal and insect kingdom, they require a protein rich diet to live and breed. Ticks are arachnids, typically 3 to 5 mm long, part of the order Parasitiformes. Along with mites, they constitute the subclass Acari. Ticks are ectoparasites (external parasites), living by feeding on the blood of mammals, birds, and sometimes reptiles and amphibians. Ticks are widely distributed around the world, especially in warm, humid climates.

    Almost all ticks belong to one of two major families, the Ixodidae or hard ticks, and the Argasidae or soft ticks. Adults have ovoid or pear-shaped bodies, which become engorged with blood when they feed, and eight legs. In addition to having a hard shield on their dorsal surfaces, hard ticks have a beak-like structure at the front containing the mouth parts, whereas soft ticks have their mouth parts on the underside of the body. Both families locate a potential host by odour or from changes in the environment.

    Ticks have four stages to their life cycle, namely egg, larva, nymph, and adult. Ixodid ticks have three hosts, taking at least a year to complete their life cycle. Argasid ticks have up to seven nymphal stages (instars), each one requiring a blood meal. Because of their habit of ingesting blood, ticks are vectors of at least 12 diseases that affect humans and other animals.

    If you spend time outdoors or have pets that go outdoors, you need to beware of ticks. Many species transmit diseases to animals and people. Some of the diseases you can get from a tick bite are Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia.

    Some ticks are so small that they can be difficult to see. Ticks may get on you if you walk through areas where they live, such as tall grass, leaf litter or shrubs.

    The site of the tick bite typically looks like a small, reddish area that may or may not be raised, similar to a mosquito bite.

    Within days, weeks, or even months, tick bites may develop as a larger red ring (larger than 2 inches), often looking like a bull’s-eye, indicating possible infection with Lyme disease (although the classic “bull’s eye” lesion does not need to develop for a diagnosis of Lyme disease). In most cases, the infection can be eliminated with antibiotics, especially if treatment is started when symptoms are first noted.

    Tick-borne diseases occur worldwide, including in your own backyard. To help protect yourself and your family, you should

    1) Use a chemical repellent with DEET, permethrin or picaridin
    2) Wear light-colored protective clothing
    3) Tuck pant legs into socks
    4) Avoid tick-infested areas
    5) Check yourself, your children and your pets daily for ticks and carefully remove any ticks you find.

    While most ticks are harmless, some carry disease and may transmit illness (eg, Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Colorado tick fever) to their host. Certain ticks can even inject venom that causes temporary paralysis in their host (called tick paralysis).

    First Aid Guide
    To remove an embedded tick:

    1) Wash your hands.
    2) Clean tweezers by boiling them or by pouring antiseptic solution (eg, isopropyl alcohol) over them.
    3) With tweezers, grasp the tick as close to its head or mouth as possible, and pull it straight out with a slow and steady motion. Be careful not to leave the head embedded in the skin, and make sure all parts of the tick are completely removed. Note: Be sure to not twist the tick body as you pull it out.
    4) Wash the area completely with soap and water.

    After the tick has been completely removed, watch for approximately the next few weeks for signs of infection or illness, particularly if the tick was likely attached for over 24 hours.

    It is important to remove a tick within 24 hours, if possible. Once home, remove your clothes and thoroughly inspect all skin surface areas. Don’t forget your scalp! As ticks can be quite small, carefully evaluate all black or brown spots on the skin.

    Seek emergency medical care if the person is experiencing any of the following:

    1) Signs of paralysis (numbness, tingling, weakness, and in-coordination)
    2) Severe headache
    3) Chest pain
    4) Heart palpitations
    5) Trouble breathing
    6) There are any other serious symptoms

    Typically, there is no need to see the doctor for a tick bite. However, if you attempt to remove a tick and part of it remains in its host, seek medical attention.

    Additionally, illness caused by ticks may not develop for days, weeks, or even months after the bite occurred. Seek medical attention if flu-like symptoms occur within a day or a few days after the bite or if a pink to red bulls-eye-like ring around the bite develops.

    Following a tick bite, keep a watchful eye for signs of infection, and seek medical care if any of these symptoms occur:

    1) A rash
    2) Increased pain
    3) Swelling
    4) Redness
    5) Flu-like symptoms
    6) Discharge or red streaks from the site of the bite

    If self-care measures were taken as detailed above but not all of the tick was successfully removed, a physician can remove the remaining portion of the tick.

    Depending on the overall situation, your physician may decide, after weighing the risks and benefits, to prescribe a course of antibiotic treatment such as oral doxycycline.


    1. Case in point : From a Weather Network news article

      Woman airlifted to hospital after receiving tick bite !

      A woman from Hamilton, Montana had to be airlifted from a local hiking trail after being bitten by a tick Sunday.

      Jackie Doyle was with a friend when she suddenly felt a sharp pain on her chest followed by a wave of nausea, NBC reports.

      “I felt like my chest was going to start swelling up,” she told the news outlet. “So I just like cut my sports bra off that I was wearing and I investigated the spot and there was a big red bull’s-eye.”

      That’s when Doyle found the tick burrowed in her skin. She tried to leave the trail but didn’t have the strength to walk and she began to vomit.

      Doyle says she was left alone in the forest for three hours while her friend went to get help. Soon after, a helicopter arrived and airlifted her to the hospital. She has since been released but told NBC she’s still not feeling well.

      Not all ticks can cause Lyme disease. There are several types of ticks found in Canada, but only those with black legs can transmit the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi that causes the condition, and only if they are infected with it, according to the Government of Canada’s website.

      Early detection is one of the best ways to treat Lyme disease.

      Experts say the condition is on the rise in Canada and the U.S. due to a combination of ticks expanding northward and warmer weather, which is allowing the arachnids to survive in climates that were previously too cold.

      It can take three days to one month for symptoms of Lyme disease to occur. The condition can be successfully treated with antibiotics.

      Note : Lone Star Ticks are now in Canada. They have a distinctive “white dot” on their back. Lately, a bite from one of these ticks has caused severe swelling in a Harcourt man’s throat, among other health concerns, and left him with a strange allergy to red meat.

  3. Here is an update concerning the Lone Star Tick :

    A veterinary clinic in London, Ont. has issued a warning for a rare species of tick that has been known to cause a meat allergy in humans.

    The Oakridge Animal Clinic took to social media after a Lone Star Tick was found on a feline patient. The clinic noted that the cat had picked up the tick locally, although the species is predominantly located in the southeastern United States.

    “This tick showed up today,” the clinic wrote in a Facebook post. “She caused quite a stir. Not native to Canada there have been rumours of the Lone Star Tick being found in Ontario. This was our first one. This shows why tick protection is important for your furry family members.”

    In recent years, Lone Star ticks have spread throughout the United States, Mexico and Canada, bringing with them the risk of developing alpha-gal syndrome which is transmitted through a bite from the species.

    According to the Mayo Clinic, this specific species of tick transmits a sugar molecule called alpha-gal that causes causes the body to react when ingesting red meat. Unlike most food allergies, alpha-gal syndrome reactions are often delayed up to six hours after eating red meat. Symptoms can range in severity, including headaches and sneezing to hives, swelling of the face, throat and tongue, nausea and diarrhea, shortness of breath and in some cases, anaphylaxis.

    Scientists believe the Lone Star tick carry alpha-gal molecules from animals they commonly bite such as cows and sheep. Previous cases of alpha-gal syndrome have been reported in the United States, Australia and Europe.

    The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology advises a proper diagnosis from an allergist should you frequently experience allergy-like symptoms after eating meat. Aside from avoid meats such as beef and pork when possible, those with more severe allergies should carry an epiPen with them at all times in case of an emergency.

    Aside from using bug repellent that contains DEET, Jeremy Hogeveen, the vector-borne disease coodinator with the Middlesex-London Health Unit told CTV News London that checking your body thoroughly for ticks is essential to tick prevention.

    “They start to move into areas where you’re not going to look too often — your armpits, your scalp, behind your ears, behind your knees,” Hogeveen said.

    With pets as common carriers for ticks into the home, ensuring that your pet is up to date on tick prevention medications and checking your pet for ticks after spending time outdoors is essential to maintaining your pets overall health, and minimizing your chances of being bitten.

    There is no time like the present to defend yourself from the effects of these invaders.

Leave a Reply

Back to top