The first day of spring is a welcome sight for more than just the people of Kamloops – it’s a big moment for the area’s parasites, too.
With the start of tick season, it’s time for a refresher on how to deal with these potentially disease-stuffed arachnids that lurk all around.
The most obvious way to deal with tick bites is to not get bitten, but that may not be as simple as staying out of the woods.
“Typically, you find ticks wherever you have big-horn sheep or deer,” said Frank Ritcey, provincial WildSafe B.C. coordinator. “I mention that because a lot of people have deer in their yards these days, and if that’s the case, you have to watch for ticks as well.”
To prevent bites while out in the wild, where tick encounters are most common, Ritcey recommended the unfashionable but effective look of tucking your pants in to your socks and spraying yourself with bug repellant containing DEET. He also said to stay on main trails if you can, and avoid walking in places with high grass or brush.
If a tick does latch onto you, it’ll climb up into hairier areas of the body to nest; any place it feels it’s going to be safe and won’t get picked off. Since you may not even feel when a tick bites you, Ritcey emphasized checking yourself thoroughly for ticks when you get home.
“Use a fine tooth comb to go through your hair. It’s good if you have a partner, someone who can check for you. When you take your clothes off, shake them off outside, then hang them up. Ticks will typically climb to the outside of clothes and be waiting around the top, so check the next morning to see if any show up.”
If you do locate a tick, Ritcey said to use caution while removing it. If you squeeze a tick that has already bitten you, it can empty its stomach contents into your system, and that’s how you can get diseases. He advised using fine tweezers and grasping as near to the skin as possible while pulling the tick directly up, then wash the area and use an antibacterial cream.
If a tick has bitten you, watch for the famous bulls-eye rash. If you can’t wait that long, Ritcey said you can take the tick to be tested for Lyme disease. The kicker is, it must be alive. So when you pick a tick off, store it in a container, and take it to the doctor.
To some, this may seem like a lot of work for a disease that is very rare. According to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, there was a rate of Lyme disease in one per 100,000 cases in the Thompson Cariboo Shuswap region in 2016.
However, Ritcey warned that ticks can cause other diseases as well, like Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia and more.
“The chance of getting Lyme disease is low, but if you do get it, it’s a very nasty thing to have. It’s like when people carry bear spray; even though the chance of you getting attacked is very low, if there’s something you can do to prevent it, then that’s what you want to do,” he said.
Even if you don’t think you’re at risk, be sure to check pets for ticks. The most common local tick, the Rocky Mountain wood tick, can cause paralysis in dogs. Ritcey said if you find the tick and remove it as soon as possible, then give your dog lots of water. Vets also have treatments like acaricides that can kill ticks on dogs.
For more information, go to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.