OTTAWA -- As you prepare to spend time outside this summer, Ottawa Public Health is reminding you to watch out for blacklegged ticks.

If you are outdoors, ticks could be located in wooded areas or in areas with tall grass.  Ottawa Public Health says the population of blacklegged ticks is on the rise in Ottawa, eastern Ontario and the Outaouais region, and increases the risk of Lyme disease.

In 2018, there were 90 cases of Lyme disease reported in Ottawa, up from six cases in 2008.

What is Lyme disease?

Ottawa Public Health says Lyme disease spreads through the bite of a blacklegged tick that is infected with the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi.

"Most people are infected with Lyme disease through the bite of an immature tick called a nymph," said Ottawa Public Health.

Nymphs are tiny and difficult to see. They are less than two mm, about the size of a poppy seed.

A 2018 study by the University of Ottawa found one in three ticks in Ottawa tested positive for Lyme disease.

Lyme disease prevention

The health unit offers simple tips to minimize exposure to blacklegged ticks:

  • Apply a Health Canada approved insect repellent containing DEET or icaridin
  • Wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, shoes, and socks to cover exposed skin
  • Tuck your pants into your socks
  • Wear light-coloured clothing to spot ticks more easily
  • If possible, stay on the trails when hiking in the woods and other natural areas
  • Do a "full body" check on yourself, your children, and your pets for ticks. The health unit recommends paying careful attention around your shoes, knees, groin, armpits and scalp.

What if I find a tick?

Ottawa Public Health says if you find a tick on your body; remove it as soon as possible.

"Since Ottawa is considered an at-risk area for Lyme disease, it is important to contact your doctor if you believe a tick has been attached to you for 24 or more hours, or if you are unsure how long the tick has been attached to you," said Ottawa Public Health.

A doctor will advise you about what should be done right away, and signs and symptoms to watch for of Lyme disease.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of Lyme disease, according to Ottawa Public Health:

  • Circular, red rash, which slowly expands around the tick bite area
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Fever or chills
  • Headache
  • Muscle and joint aches
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Spasms or weakness

Preventing ticks around your home

Ottawa Public Health says you can't guarantee to be rid of ticks, but you can reduce the risk around your home:

  • Keep the grass in your yard mowed
  • Add a wood chip, gravel, or river-stone boarder, one or more metres wide, to separate forested, shrubby, or tall grassed areas from your lawn
  • Remove brush and fallen leaves from the edges of your property
  • Clean up areas under and around bird feeders to reduce the attraction of small critters
  • Keep your woodpile neat, dry, off the ground and away from your home.