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Pharmacists can now assess tick bites

Previously, we had to see a physician or nurse practitioner in order for the assessment to be covered by the province
043018-blacklegged tick-lyme disease-AdobeStock_15061682
(stock photo)

Nova Scotians can now head to a pharmacist to get assessed at no charge if they've been bitten by a tick.

Previously, we had to see a physician or nurse practitioner in order for the assessment to be covered by the province.

Health and Wellness Minister Michelle Thompson said this will make it easier and more convenient for people to possibly prevent Lyme disease.

Pharmacists will help determine if the person should take a preventive antibiotic based on if it was a blacklegged tick -- which can transmit Lyme disease -- or if it was attached for at least 36 hours.

They'll also determine if the tick was removed in the last 72 hours as treatment is generally only given within that time frame.

If a dose of doxycycline is recommended, the person would have to pay for the medication the same way they pay for other prescriptions.

According to the province, most cases of Lyme disease can successfully be treated with antibiotics.

"If there are any symptoms of Lyme disease, such as a rash at the bite site, people need to see a doctor or nurse practitioner for other treatment options," the province said in a news release.

Other symptoms of Lyme disease include fatigue, fever or chills, headache, muscle or joint pain, numbness or tingling, swollen lymph nodes, cognitive dysfunction or dizziness, nervous system disorders, arthritis and heart palpitations.

Those planning to hike in high-grass areas or go for a walk in the woods are urged to tuck their pant legs into their socks and their shirt into their pants, and apply bug spray with DEET or icaridin. Wearing light colours makes it easier to spot ticks.

When you get home, it's also a good idea to put wet clothes in the dryer for at least 10 minutes and do a daily tick check.

"The best way to prevent Lyme disease is to prevent tick bites altogether, but in certain circumstances where there has been a tick bite, doxycycline remains an effective option to prevent the onset of Lyme disease," said the province's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Strang.

"It is good news knowing that people can easily go to their local pharmacy to get this assessment for free."

In 2019, there were 830 confirmed and probable cases of Lyme disease reported in Nova Scotia.

Meghan Groff

About the Author: Meghan Groff

Born in Michigan, raised in Ontario, schooled in Indiana and lives in Nova Scotia; Meghan is the editor for CityNews Halifax.
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