As tick season is upon us in British Columbia, WildSafeBC has published advice on how to avoid getting bitten, and what do if you are bitten by one of the insects.
WildSafeBC said that the eight-legged insects are most active in the spring and summer months, with two species known to bite humans in B.C.: the Rocky Mountain wood tick and the Western black-legged tick.
“The Rocky Mountain wood tick can carry diseases, but these occurrences are rare in BC. However, the toxin in the saliva of wood ticks can cause tick paralysis. If the tick is not removed, it can be fatal but if ticks are removed early, the paralysis can be reversed and the animal will be symptom-free,” said WildSafeBC. “The Western black-legged tick is the tick known to carry Lyme disease which is caused by a bacteria. The ticks are small and about the size of a sesame seed. The incidence of Lyme disease is believed to be less than 1%. Most ticks that carry Lyme disease are found along the coast, essentially west of Yale and Boston bar.”
It added that while the risk of disease is low, its still important to take a number of precautions to avoid getting bitten.
- Walk on trails and avoid grassy forested areas.
- Ticks do not drop from trees but climb up to the tips of grasses and brush waiting for a host to come by. They are triggered by vibrations and go ‘questing’ for a host.
- Wearing light coloured clothing will help you see ticks
- Tuck your pants into your socks or wear gators. You can apply insect repellent which contains DEET.
- Be especially wary along game trails or good habitat for rodents. This includes open grassy areas.
- When you return from your hike, check yourself, children and pets. Ticks will climb up and they may be in your hairline, scalp, folds of skin, under your armpits or knees.
WildSafe advises people to avoid areas you know where ticks may be found.
It also has given advice regarding what to do if one of the insects does bite you.
“Remove as much as possible by using fine-tipped tweezers. Get as close to the skin as possible and pull straight up – do not twist. Do not handle the tick with bare hands and, if you can, keep the live tick in your fridge. Monitor yourself for 3 to 30 days afterwards for any symptoms such as muscle joint pain, fever, fatigue or a bulls-eye rash. If you have any of these symptoms seek medical advice and bring the live tick with you for testing.”
Managing attractants in your yard, such as bird feeders and garbage, will also help keep the insects away from your home, as they will travel along with wildlife they feed on.
“Ticks need a host to grow, so if you can keep the host out of your yard you are doing well. Ticks can’t travel very far on their own, but their hosts can bring the ticks to you. Ensure your pets are treated for ticks so that they do not bring ticks into your home. Deer and small mammals are great vectors for ticks and if they are in your yard – there is a good chance ticks are as well,” said WildSafeBC. “Best practices include removing or protecting plants that attract deer, removing hiding spots for small rodents, cutting down tall grass, and managing fruits and other attractive sources of food.”