KINGSTON, ONT. -- There are now more ways to get out and active in Ontario as some COVID-19 restrictions ease, but experts warn that could bring an increased risk of tick bites and Lyme disease.

Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington Public Health says that spring is the start of tick season, and eastern Ontario, including Kingston and Ottawa, have been designated a high-risk area for the tick-borne illness.

Lyme disease is spread to humans through the bite of an infected blacklegged tick.

Dr. Tim Salomons, a researcher and an assistant professor with Queen’s University studying the psychological effects of Lyme disease, says as people get outdoors to get active, it's important to maintain vigilance.

“I don’t want people not going outside and not living their lives,” he says, “but if you do get Lyme, the symptoms can really disrupt peoples lives.”

Public health offers these tips to protect yourself from ticks:

  • Use tick repellents that contain DEET or Icaridin;
  • Cover up with light-coloured, long-sleeved shirts and pants that may make ticks easier to see;
  • Wear socks and closed footwear;
  • Check your body for ticks when you get home; and
  • Shower or bathe after coming inside to wash away loose ticks and to check for attached ticks.

You should also check for ticks on your kids and pets.

Symptoms of Lyme disease include fatigue, fever, muscle and joint pain and a bullseye rash. Salomons says if you have been bitten, and experience symptoms, you should speak to your doctor.

“Keep the tick. Save the tick,” he says, “so that if you do get infected you can bring it in and have it tested.”