Tick Season

More sunshine, more warmth and more bugs.  Interior Health is reminding which precautions to take to avoid ticks this year.

“Wear long sleeves, long pants that are tucked into your socks, wearing a hat, coloured clothing helps so that when you’re checking yourself after you’ve been outside it’s a little bit easier to spot the ticks, checking yourself as well as pets.  You can use repellent as well.  You can use anything containing DEET on uncovered skin,” says Interior Health Communicable Disease Specialist, Leah Feist.

Ticks are small bugs, about the size of a sesame seed, which feed on the blood of humans and animals –and, sometimes, transmit diseases. Ticks are prevalent throughout the Interior and are typically found in tall grass and wooded areas. 

Ticks are often associated with the spread of Lyme Disease but Feist says the Okanagan is mostly out of danger.  “The type of tick that causes Lyme Disease are mostly found in the coastal areas of BC and in other areas of Canada and the world.  We do have people that live in the Interior Health (Region) that do get Lyme Disease, but nearly always related to travel to somewhere else.”

Feist says the Wood Tick is what you’re more likely to find around Kelowna.  “Most commonly the disease that they can cause is called Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever…the symptoms typically start with a fever, headache, muscle pain and a rash.  It’s not that common but some ticks also can have toxins that can cause temporary muscle weakness and paralysis, and these symptoms fade once the tick is removed.”

Here are a few more helpful tips from Interior Health:

  • 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.

It is important to remove ticks found on people and pets.  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.  If the tick is alive (live ticks can be tested for Lyme disease), you can save it in a sealed container with a cotton ball soaked in water.  Record the date of the bite on the container.  If you have concerns or need assistance removing a tick, please contact your doctor or visit a walk-in medical clinic.