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Tick season arrives early

Early spring weather has brought with it an early tick season, Interior Health warns.

The bugs feed on human or animal blood and can sometimes transmit Lyme disease.

“Ticks are most often found in tall grass and wooded areas, so covering up before you head outdoors and checking for ticks on yourself, your children, and your pets after being outdoors are simple things that go a long way to prevent tick bites,” says Gwen Barker, communicable disease specialist with IH. 

The most common tick species in the B.C. Interior is the wood tick, which does not carry the Lyme disease bacteria, but it can carry Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Some ticks also have toxins that can cause temporary muscle weakness and paralysis if attached for several days, but the symptoms fade once the tick is removed.

Signs of tick-borne infections can include fever, headache, muscle pain and rash.

The tick species that carries Lyme disease (Ixodes pacificus) is more common in coastal areas of B.C. Less than one per cent of Ixodes ticks in B.C. carry Lyme disease. In addition to fever, headache, and muscle pain,  people infected with Lyme disease will often develop a rash that looks like a “bull’s eye” target and expands from the site of the bite.

“Most tick bites do not result in illness; however, all tick bites should be cleaned, as infection can occur whenever there is a break in the skin,” added Barker. “It is important to watch for signs of tick-transmitted illnesses. Anyone who experiences a bulls-eye rash or other symptoms should see a doctor as soon as possible.”

IH advises the following precautions:

  • Walking on cleared trails when in tall grass or wooded areas.
  • Wearing a hat, long sleeves, pants, and light-coloured clothing.
  • Tucking pant legs into socks or boots.
  • Applying insect repellent containing DEET on uncovered skin.
  • Carefully checking clothing and scalp (covered or not) when leaving an area where ticks may live.
  • Having a shower after returning from areas where ticks may live. 

If you find a tick on yourself, a family member, or pet, wear gloves and gently remove it. Needle-nose tweezers can be used to gently grasp the tick close to the skin. Without squeezing, pull the tick straight out. 

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