Hikers in B.C.’s interior should be vigilant in checking themselves after an outdoor adventure, as reports come in of ticks already out for blood in the region.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, there are more than 20 species of ticks in B.C., though only three of those species are known to bite humans.
The Rocky Mountain Wood Tick is common from the southern border to as far north as Williams Lake, east of the coastal mountains. They are known to spread diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever in rare cases, and if left unchecked for multiple days can cause temporary paralysis in humans.
The Western Black-legged Tick is common in warm, moist areas on Vancouver Island and the B.C. coast. Bites from these ticks are said to be painful, and they are responsible for transferring the microorganism which causes Lyme Disease in humans.
Another common tick is the brown dog tick, which mainly targets dogs and can actually spread indoors within small cracks and crevices after falling off of a dog.
The best defence against ticks is to cover all exposed skin below the waist when adventuring outdoors and to rigorously check for ticks after outdoor activities.
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Interior Health said it’s important to remove any ticks you find on people or animals.
“To do so, wear gloves and use needle nose tweezers to gently grasp the tick close to the skin. Pull the tick straight out without squeezing it. After it is removed, clean the area with soap and water.,” the health authority noted.
If the tick is alive and you are concerned about the bite, you can save it in a sealed container with a cotton ball soaked in water. Record the date of the bite on the container and contact your doctor or visit a walk-in medical clinic.
Although most tick bites are harmless, it is important to watch for signs of illness and see a doctor as soon as possible if you notice a bull’s eye rash or other symptoms. If you saved the tick, bring it with you to your medical appointment.
A number of precautions can be taken to prevent tick bites and tick-related illnesses. For example, you should:
· Walk on cleared trails when in tall grass or wooded areas.
· Cover up by wearing a hat, long sleeves, and pants.
· Wear light-coloured clothing to help spot ticks easily.
· Tuck pant legs into socks or boots.
· Apply insect repellent containing DEET on uncovered skin.
· Check clothing and scalp (covered or not) when leaving an area where ticks may live. Ask someone to help check hard-to-reach areas.
· Have a shower after returning from areas where ticks may live.
· Regularly check household pets for ticks.
To help keep ticks away from your home and yard, you can:
· Keep your lawn short and remove any fallen leaves and weeds.
· Keep a buffer area such as wood-chip or gravel border between your lawn and wooded areas or stone walls. Any play equipment or play zones should be kept away from wooded areas.
· Trim tree branches to allow more sunlight in your yard.
· Keep wood piles and bird feeders away from the house.
· Widen and maintain trails on your property.