The Nature Conservancy of Canada is reminding the public to take precautions to protect themselves from ticks while enjoying the great outdoors.

People are feeling especially cooped up this year after months of quarantining at home due to COVID-19, in addition to a long, cold winter. 

Carys Richards is the manager of communications for the NCC Alberta region, and she says that we shouldn't fear spending time out in nature, however, when it comes to ticks, it's important to be prepared and know what to look for.

"These are a natural animal that shares the ecosystem with us. They're not new, but they're out there and if people are unprepared there is a chance you could encounter a tick and they can pass infectious disease, like Lyme disease."

More reports of Lyme-carrying ticks have come forth in Canada over the past several years. Ticks are becoming more common in Alberta, southern BC, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec as well as the Atlantic provinces.

Richards says that ticks can be small in size and therefore hard to detect. She says "Ticks can be the size of a poppyseed which makes them really hard to spot. They're dark in colour and they're usually found in shaded areas or long grass."

Richards says that taking precautionary measures can keep you safe from tick encounters. "What we're suggesting is that people can wear bug repellant that contains DEET. Wear long sleeves, tuck everything in -  like your pants into your socks and stay in the middle of the trails. Since ticks do like to live in shaded areas and long grass, if you're walking in the middle of a trail there's a lot less chance of a tick jumping on you."

Richards recommends wearing light-coloured clothing when hiking to help you see ticks more easily and give you time to brush them off before they become attached to your skin. She also suggests covering your head with a hat and tucking in long hair.

She says that after spending time outdoors to check your body for ticks, as well as your gear and pets before heading back inside. "When you get home after being outdoors, check yourself for ticks, wipe down your clothing, take a bath or a shower and make sure you run your hands over your skin to look for bug bites or any ticks that have attached themselves. If you do feel a tick crawling on you, you'll feel a little bit of a tickle on your skin and you can brush it off."

In most cases, the first symptom of a tick bite is a rash that may look like a bulls-eye target. Infected people could also develop flu-like symptoms. Richards says "If you think you have a tick bite please go get it checked out. Lyme disease if untreated could be very dangerous, but if detected early can be treated with antibiotics and almost always results in full recovery."

Richards says that the best way of removing a tick is by using tweezers to grasp the tick's head and slowly pull it straight out.

The Government of Canada encourages people to submit their ticks to be tested for Lyme disease. Richards says that after removing a tick, to place it in a pill bottle or ziplock bag to preserve it for testing.

Tick season in Alberta runs from the spring until the fall.