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Tick season is underway in Ontario. Here’s how to protect yourself

Tick season is well underway and there is a new species of ticks causing new diseases, which is why you need to take steps to protect yourself.

While Lyme disease is the most common, and while not every tick carries a potential illness, you’ll want to do everything possible to prevent bites.

Many of us already have insect repellents to keep mosquitoes away and the good news is that the same repellents will also protect you against ticks.

Every year, Consumer Reports tests lotions, sprays, and wipes on real people using real mosquitoes to find the best insect repellents. A repellent fails if a mosquito bites twice in five minutes or twice in two sessions.

“We currently test repellents against only mosquitoes, but in past years, we’ve found that repellents that worked well against mosquitoes also tended to work well against ticks,” said Catherine Roberts with Consumer Reports.

Whether it’s for mosquitoes or ticks, the most effective repellents contain 25 to 30 percent deet as their active ingredient.

While the majority of ticks in the province are black legged ticks, which are most likely to carry Lyme disease, there are 12 other species that can spread illnesses that can cause damage to the brain and nervous system.

Another one showing up in the United States and moving north to Canada is the Lone Star Tick. It’s most distinctive feature is its star-like white splotch, found on adult females.

A bite from this species can cause a whole range of health issues, including developing allergies to meat.

“With these ticks, you have to worry about more than just meat allergies. They can also spread diseases like ehrlichiosis, which, if left untreated, can damage the brain or nervous system, and the Heartland virus, which can cause fever, fatigue, and joint pain,” said Roberts.

Lone star ticks used to be found mostly in the Southeastern U.S. But that’s changing.

“With a warming climate and especially with the growth of local deer populations, many northern states and even parts of Canada are becoming a lot more hospitable to these ticks,” said Roberts.

While your best protection against ticks is insect repellent, correctly applying it is just as important as the kind you use. Follow the directions on the label, and use a thin coat on all exposed skin. You can also spray on top of your clothes, but don’t apply under your clothing.

You should always do a tick check before returning home after being on hike trails, the woods, or grassy areas.

Generally, a tick must be attached to the body for 24 hours or more before transmitting Lyme disease. If you do find a tick it should be removed with a tweezers and pulled straight out without any twisting or turning.

Health Canada has videos online to show how it’s done.

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