Tick safety

Everyone who spends time outside in Nova Scotia – even in urban and suburban areas – is at risk of being bitten by a tick. There are several kinds of ticks in the province, but only the blacklegged tick carries the bacteria and virus that cause tick borne diseases, such as Lyme disease.
Three types of ticks shown next to a dime for scale Left to right: Female black legged tick, groundhog tick, dog tick.
Two kinds of ticks engorged with blood shown next to a dime for scale Top to bottom: engorged female dog tick, engorged female black legged tick.

Ticks like moist and humid environments and live in or near woods, shrubs, and long grass. They are very small, which makes them hard to spot and their bites don’t hurt, which makes it difficult to know when you’ve been bitten.

Tick-borne illnesses are preventable by taking some simple precautions.

Reduce your risk

  • Wear long pants and long sleeves in areas likely to have ticks
  • Wear light coloured clothing – its easier to see ticks
  • Wear enclosed shoes and tuck your pants into your socks
  • Apply insect repellents containing DEET or Icaridin to exposed skin and clothes. Follow directions on the package carefully.

Check for ticks

  • Check your body and clothing for ticks after being outside in potentially tick-infested areas
  • Having a bath or shower within two hours of coming inside makes it easier to spot ticks and wash off loose ticks
  • Ticks like warm places on the body. Remember to check:
    • around ears
    • behind knees
    • in the hair
    • between the legs/groin area
    • around the waist
    Diagram of a person with areas to check: in hair and along hairline, behind ears, back of neck, armpits, elbows, waist area, back of knees and between toes
  • If you see a tick, remove it safely (see below)
  • If you have pets that spend time outside, make tick-checks part of your daily routine. Dogs can’t transmit tick-borne illnesses to people, but ticks are hitchhikers. They can enter your home on your pet and move to you or another family member.

Remove a tick safely

  • Carefully grasp the tick with tweezers – the pointier, the better - as close to the skin as possible
  • Gently and slowly pull the tick straight out of the skin. Do not jerk, twist or squeeze it
  • Once the tick is removed, clean the area of the bite with soap and water, rubbing alcohol, or hydrogen peroxide to avoid other infections.
  • Make a note of the date and where on the body the bite occurred. This will be important if you, or a loved one, begin to feel unwell.

Disposal of ticks

Once removed, flush the tick down toilet, drown in rubbing alcohol or freeze in a plastic sealed bag prior to putting in the garbage. Avoid crushing ticks with exposed fingers.

The Government of Canada provides information on how to submit a tick for identification and testing.

Submit a tick for identification in NS

Museum of Natural History
1747 Summer St, Halifax, NS

Signs and symptoms of Lyme disease

Only the blacklegged tick can transmit Lyme disease, and only after being attached for at least 24 – 36 hours. Lyme disease is treatable with a short course of antibiotics.

One of the earliest and most common symptoms of Lyme disease is a rash that’s often shaped like a bull's-eye. The rash occurs on the same site as the bite.

Other symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches
  • Joint pain
  • Headaches

These symptoms may appear in stages, or over time.

If you’ve been exploring outdoors, especially in wooded areas, forests, areas where tall grasses and or shrubs are present, or have found a tick on your body, and show these symptoms, see a healthcare provider.