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Treating tick bites has been great addition to N.B. health plan: pharmacists

By Joe Thomson Sep 13, 2023 | 1:06 PM

John Tann / CC

New Brunswickers have been able to get assessed and treated for tick bites by a pharmacist under the provincial health plan ever since a change was made back in May.

Anyone who’s ever gone into the woods in New Brunswick knows how important it is to check yourself for ticks afterwards, and in the not-so-rare case that you end up getting bitten, having a pharmacist take care of you has proven to be a fast and effective option.

Nathan Coffill is one of those pharmacists who has been treating tick bites this summer. He says it’s been a great addition to the role pharmacies can play in keeping safe and healthy.

“Pharmacists in New Brunswick are one of your most accessible health care professionals. I know Shoppers Drug Mart, anytime the store is open, there is a pharmacist there that’s able and willing to help with those patients that may have encountered a tick bite,” said Coffill.

This can speed up the process of getting treated after a tick bite, which Coffill says is crucial in preventing the transmission of Lyme disease. Most ticks do not carry Lyme, but it’s hard to tell when you’ve been bit what kind of tick it was. That’s why it’s so important to get to a healthcare professional as soon as possible because it takes just 24 hours for Lyme to set in.

“A lot of times because they’re so small, we don’t know when it happened exactly, you can kind of narrow it down to a time that maybe you were in long grass, or it was in the woods, that sort of thing. But the first thing we want to do is get that tick removed as promptly as possible,” said Coffill.

If you find you’ve been bitten by a tick, Coffill says to remove it immediately using a clean pair of tweezers­ – d­­on’t twist or wiggle it out, as that could cause the tick head to break off and get embedded in the skin, just pull it straight out – then place the tick in a plastic bag or container and label it with the date it was found. Bring the tick with you to the nearest healthcare provider and have them treat and assess the bite.

With fall and winter becoming warmer each year, Coffill says tick season is getting longer. So it’s important to know be mindful when walking in the woods, always check for bites afterwards, and know what to do if you’ve been bitten.