Outdoor health concerns

Enjoying the outdoors can help you stay fit and healthy, but it can also make you sick. Take steps to protect yourself and your family from these top 4 outdoor health concerns:

  • Lyme disease: the most common illness carried by ticks in North America and Europe
  • West Nile virus: a virus carried by mosquitoes and found in animals, birds and humans
  • Bee and insect stings: can cause serious problems for people who are allergic
  • Rabies: a contagious disease carried by infected animals that is always fatal unless treated before symptoms develop

Lyme disease

Not all blacklegged ticks – also called deer ticks – carry the type of bacteria that causes Lyme disease. But you still want to avoid being bitten and reduce the risk while enjoying the outdoors in Ontario.

West Nile virus

Anyone bitten by a mosquito carrying West Nile virus can experience symptoms that range from nothing at all to high fever, tremors, muscle weakness and more.

Learn how to protect yourself and reduce your risk of getting West Nile virus.

Bee and insect stings

Most bees and insects will not attack if left alone. But if annoyed, a bee will sting in defense of its nest or itself. Many people are stung each year and a few may die as a result of allergic reactions.

If you know you are allergic to insect stings:

  • carry an insect sting allergy kit
  • wear a medical ID bracelet or necklace stating your allergy

Ask your family doctor about getting these items. You may also want to ask about a kit that will help reduce the pain of an insect sting. This type of kit is a valuable addition to a first aid kit.

How to avoid stings

Cover up

  • wear light colored clothing with a smooth finish — it attracts fewer bees than dark clothing
  • cover the body as much as possible with clothing

Keep yourself clean and fragrance free

  • wear clean clothing and bathe daily — sweat can make bees angry
  • avoid perfumed soaps, shampoos and deodorants
  • don't wear cologne or perfume
  • avoid bananas and banana-scented toiletries

Keep outdoor spaces clear and fragrance free

  • clean up picnic tables, grills and other outdoor eating areas
  • avoid flowering plants if you know you are allergic to bee and insect stings

If you see a single stinging insect

  • remain still or lie face down on the ground (the face is the most likely place for a bee or wasp to sting)
  • do not swing or swat at the insect
  • if a bee comes inside your vehicle, stop the car slowly and open all the windows

If you are attacked outdoors

Bees release a chemical when they sting. This warns other bees that there is danger. More bees often follow. If stinging insects attack you, run to get away from them. If you are outdoors:

  • look for a shaded area, stay away from open areas
  • go indoors if you can
  • jump into water

If you are allergic to insect stings

There are several signs of an allergic reaction to insect stings. Watch for:

  • swelling that moves to other parts of the body, especially the face or neck
  • difficulty in breathing
  • dizziness or a drop in blood pressure

Get immediate medical care if you see any of these signs after an insect sting. Contact your doctor or other health care provider.

Health care providers


Rabies is spread from infected mammals to people.

How you get rabies

You can contract the disease in four ways:

  • a rabid animal bites you
  • the saliva of a rabid animal enters your body through an open cut, sore or wound
  • the saliva of a rabid animal touches the moist tissues of your mouth, nose or eyes
  • you do not protect yourself properly when handling a dead rabid animal

The chance of running into a rabid animal in Ontario is low.

Rabies signs and symptoms

Rabies attacks your central nervous system. Adults may see symptoms within 2 weeks of exposure. In some cases, symptoms may take much longer to show — even more than a year. Rabies is almost always fatal unless treated before symptoms develop.

Early symptoms may include:

  • numbness around the site of the bite
  • fever
  • headache
  • a general sick feeling

Later symptoms may include:

  • muscle spasms
  • trouble swallowing

How to avoid rabies

  • do not feed wild animals and stay at a safe distance from them
  • watch children and teach them not to approach or touch animals they do not know
  • stay away from animals showing signs of rabies
  • do not bring home wild animals
  • if you suspect an animal is rabid, stay away from it and contact the local authorities
  • if you have pets or livestock, make sure to vaccinate them against rabies

How to spot rabies

If you see any animal behaving strangely, they may have rabies. There are two forms of the disease:

  1. Dumb or paralytic rabies:
    • animals may show signs of depression and will try to hide
    • wild animals may lose their fear of humans and appear unusually friendly
    • animals may show signs of partial paralysis such as abnormal facial expressions, drooping head, sagging jaw, or paralyzed hind limbs
  2. Furious or irritable rabies:
    • animals may seem very excited or aggressive
    • animals may gnaw at and bite their own limbs
    • animals may attack objects or other animals

Rabid animals may have one or both of these forms of rabies. Or, they may not show symptoms at all.

Report a bite

Report an animal that seems dangerous

  • call your local police
  • call the Ontario Provincial Police

Report a living or dead domestic animal (such as pets or livestock) that may have rabies

Contact your local veterinarian.

If you think you have rabies

If you think you’ve contracted rabies, contact:

The goal of PHUs is to prevent rabies occurrences in humans. This is achieved by increasing the public’s awareness of the disease and by providing post-exposure treatment to persons exposed to animals suspected or known to have rabies.