WildSafeBC has released a spring time information pamphlet to help spread awareness about ticks in British Columbia; how to avoid them and what to do if one bites you.
These eight-legged insects are most abundant in spring and into the early summer months, according to WildSafe and there are two species in the province that are known to bite humans, the Rocky Mountain wood tick and the Western black-legged tick.
The former can in rare cases carry diseases, but saliva contains a toxin that can cause paralysis and if the tick is not removed the result can be fatal. If removed early, the paralysis is reversed and the symptoms diminish.
The latter, the sesame seed sized Western black-legged tick is the one that can carry Lyme, a disease caused by a bacteria, however the incidence of Lyme is believed to be less than one per cent. Most ticks that carry the disease are found along the coast.
Even though Lyme is rare in B.C. WildSafe says it’s still important to take precautions to prevent getting bit.
You can do this by walking on trails and avoiding grassy forested areas. Ticks do not drop from trees, rather they climb up to the tips of grasses and brush looking for a host to latch onto. They lie in wait until they are triggered by vibrations and then go “questing” for a host.
Wearing light-coloured clothing can help make spotting ticks on yourself easier. You can also tuck your pants into your socks or wear gators. Also be sure to spray yourself down with DEET-containing insect repellent. If you know an area near your community that ticks are prevalent, consider just avoiding it altogether.
After finishing a hike, check yourself, your children and your pets for ticks. They will climb upwards and you may find them in your hairline or scalp, in the folds of your skin, in your armpits or knees.
It’s important that if you find a tick to remove it immediately using fine-tipped tweezers. Get at it as close to the skin as you can and pull straight up, without any twisting. Once removed, do not handle the tick with bare hands, and if possible, place the live tick in a container in your fridge.
Next you’ll want to monitor yourself for three to 30 days for symptoms including muscle or joint paint, fever, fatigue or a bulls-eye rash. If you have any of these symptoms book a trip to the doctor and take the live tick with you for testing.
WildSafeBC also has tips for preventing ticks from getting into your yard. They need a host in order to grow, so keeping a host out of your yard is a good thing. Ticks aren’t able to travel far on their own, but when attached to a host they can so it’s important to treat your pets for ticks so they don’t bring them into your home.
Host animals such as deer and small mammals like mice and squirrels are good indicators of ticks, so if they are in your yard, ticks could very well be there too. If you can prevent these animals from being in your yard, like by managing their attractants, you can also prevent from having surplus ticks.