Skip to main content Skip to footer

Ticks and Lyme Disease

Encountering a tick is as easy as brushing against bushes or long grass in a tick-infested area. Ticks are members of the arachnid family and are unable to jump or fly. They survive by attaching themselves to mammals and birds and feeding on their blood. Ticks thrive in wooded, brushy areas with undergrowth and significant leaf litter that keep the ground damp. Most ticks are about three to five millimeters in length but can expand significantly in size after feeding. 

Ticks in Ontario 

Various species of ticks can be found in most parts of Ontario, clustering along the north shores of Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, and the St. Lawrence River. It is possible, however, to find ticks anywhere in Ontario where they may have been transported by migratory birds. Although they are primarily active in spring and summer, ticks can be found any time of year when the temperature is above freezing. 

There are several different tick species in Ontario, but Ixodes scapularis, the blacklegged tick (also known as the deer tick), is of particular concern from a public health perspective. Blacklegged ticks can carry the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi which, if transmitted to humans via a tick bite, may cause Lyme disease. 

Blacklegged Ticks and Lyme Disease 

Lyme disease is a potentially serious infectious disease that can result from the bite of an infected blacklegged tick. In 2020, there were 5.7 confirmed cases of Lyme disease per 100,000 people in Ontario and cases have been rising for several years. Approximately 70% of all cases are reported in June, July and August. This peak in cases during the summer months coincides with both greater participation in outdoor activities and increased presence of ticks in the nymph stage of their lifecycle, when they are about the size of a poppy seed and very difficult to see. 

Blacklegged ticks that may carry Lyme disease live in wooded areas, tall grasses, and bushes. Protect yourself: 

  • Wear light-colored clothing. It makes ticks easier to spot. 
  • Wear closed footwear and socks and a long sleeve shirt tucked into long pants. Tuck your pants into your socks. 
  • Use an insect repellent containing DEET or icaridin on clothes and exposed skin. Always be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions on how to use it. 
  • Check for ticks on your body, paying special attention to the groin area, belly button, armpits, head and behind ears and knees. Use a mirror to check the back of your body or have someone else check for you. Don’t forget to check for ticks on your children and your pets. 
  • Take a shower as soon as you can after being outdoors to wash off any ticks that may be on you. 
  • Kill any ticks that might be on your clothing by putting your clothes in a dryer on high heat for at least 10 minutes before washing them. 

If you catch a tick attached to you do not panic! Not every tick carries a disease. Do not rip the tick off or burn it or smother it with Vaseline, as these actions will not help. Instead, use clean fine tipped-tweezers as available, or a tick pick and firmly grasp the tick as close to the skin as you can get. Gently, pull away from the skin. The goal is to get the entirety of the tick out in one attempt. If this does not happen, attempt to get the remaining tick-bits out of the skin with tweezers.  

If you have pets: 

  • Check your pets’ skin after being outdoors and remove any ticks you find. 
  • Remove a tick from your pet using the same steps that you would follow to remove a tick from yourself. 
  • Ask your veterinarian about options to help keep ticks off your pets. 

HKPR District Health Unit no longer accepts black-legged ticks for testing, but you can still identify ticks by using the free eTick website. To use the site: 

  • Submit a photo of the tick you encounter. 
  • You’ll be notified within 48 hours if the tick is the type that may spread Lyme disease. 
  • You can then determine what additional care you need, including whether to see a health care provider. 

NEED further assistance please contact the HKPR District Health Unit’s Environmental Health Department at 1-866-888-4577, ext. 5006. 

When to Seek Medical Attention

  • If a blacklegged tick is attached for 24+ hours or is enlarged. 
  • If you have visited an area where blacklegged ticks may be found and develop symptoms of Lyme disease.  

Do not use a lit match or cigarette, nail polish or nail polish remover, petroleum jelly, liquid soap or kerosene to remove the tick. 

Early symptoms of Lyme disease can include a ring-like rash that expands outward from the bite. Other symptoms may be flu-like, including fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, and fatigue. Find out more about Lyme disease and how to avoid exposure to infected ticks on the Ontario government’s Lyme disease information page. 

Found a Tick?

Submit a photo online and get it identified by eTick.

This website uses cookies to enhance usability and provide you with a more personal experience. By using this website, you agree to our use of cookies as explained in our Privacy Policy.