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Montreal specialist dispenses advice for preventing Lyme disease
The warmer weather entices many of us outside, and also brings with it some risks – like Lyme disease, which is on the rise in Quebec.
The bite of an infected tick requires your full attention: right now, the Monteregie area is the main source of infected ticks in our general region.
The problem will only intensify over the coming years, so the director of McGill’s Center for Tropical Diseases says we best adapt now.
“There is no question that Lyme disease is worsening in the sense that it’s becoming more common in Canada,” Dr. Michael Libman explained.
To try and prevent a tick bite and a possible case of Lyme disease, Libman says to cover up as much as possible when hiking in hotspots.
“They don’t necessarily bite where they land on you. They can land on your leg, then they can crawl up to some hidden place like your groin, under your shirt, your back,” Libman explained.
Bug repellant, containing DEET – or diethyltoluamide – can also help.
Once at home, do a full body check, Libman says – and check twice. Ticks can be tiny – bites are usually painless and don’t itch.
“The tick needs to be attached for about two days before Lyme is transmitted,” he said. “So if you check and remove at the end of every day, you’re safe.”
Removing has to be done carefully – the tick buries its head in your body, so you need to remove it all using a tweezer.
But Libman says finding a tick doesn’t mean you have to run to a doctor.
If, in a few days or a week after you’ve noticed the tick, you get a rash and aren’t feeling well, Libman says to seek medical attention.
Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics – if left untreated, serious complications can develop, including heart, joint, and neurological problems.
“Even in those cases, most people can be completely cured without any long term effects,” Libman added.
But doctors here are becoming concerned about a related issue developing in Quebec.
Even though Libman says lab testing here is generally excellent, people are seeking alternative diagnoses and treatments south of the border – in the United States – when they suspect they have Lyme disease.
“There are labs out there, mostly based in the U.S., which do testing which does not follow the scientific consensus,” Libman explained.
“In my view, almost all of these tests are false positives. They’re giving people who have an illness and have something wrong with them a false diagnosis, and can cause them to not be investigated for some other disease they may have,” he added.
Lyme disease or not, this summer, a proper diagnosis may be critical.