Ever wonder why the sight of a microscopic tick can induce the same fear as coming face to face with a tarantula? This is because ticks, although commonly thought of as insects, are actually members of the Arachnid Family. Like their spider and scorpion relatives, these tiny creatures have four pairs of legs and no antennae.
To further fuel our phobia-rich imaginations, ticks can also be thought of as modern-day vampires. Lurking within forested areas and along tall grasses, these blood-suckers patiently wait for an unsuspecting protein source to wander by before latching on and enjoying their next meal.
Without the ability to jump or fly, ticks often crawl up grasses or low brush to scope out potential targets. Once sourced, the tick secures its back legs firmly into the grass before reaching out with its front legs to grab onto the passing animal or human. This process, called questing, is followed by the tick burrowing its curved teeth into the host’s skin and remaining attached for 2 to 3 days to feast.
Ticks are capable of carrying numerous disease-causing pathogens at any given time, but the most common tick-borne disease in Canada is Lyme disease. First described in Lyme, Connecticut in 1976, Lyme disease is an inflammatory infection caused by a bacterium called Borrelia Burgdorferi.
In British Columbia, the chance of contracting Lyme disease from a tick bite is low, and many BC ticks actually prefer to get their blood meals from rodents and small animals. That being said, it’s important to note that ticks can live through the winter (even in BC!) and, although spring and summer are typically their most active months, ticks will venture out in any temperature above 4 degrees.
Tick safety before leaving home:
Research where you are going. Will you be walking through tall grass or low shrubs? Or through a forested area? What type of vegetation will you need to walk through to get to where you’re going?
Plan what to wear. If you know it will be difficult to avoid tall grass along a hiking trail, cover up! Wear closed shoes, socks that cover the ankles, long pants, and a long-sleeved shirt. Also consider the color of your clothes, as light colors will make it easier to spot ticks.
Pack bug spray.Back to Earth’s Buzz Off Outdoor Spray is an effective alternative that is also safe for use on pets. Its unique blend includes the ingredient eucalyptus, which is an effective tick repellant, as well as a number of other smells that ticks hate.
Tick safety in the outdoors:
Apply bug spray before entering any area that may have ticks.
Walk along cleared pathways and avoid grassy areas.
Tuck your pants into your socks for added protection.
Stop regularly to do a tick check. Don’t forget to also check your pets!
Tick safety upon arriving home:
Remove all clothing carefully and place in the dryer on high heat for approximately 10 minutes.
Complete a thorough tick check. Inspect your entire body, feeling for bumps and looking for tiny dark spots. Pay close attention to hidden areas (behind ears, armpits, elbow creases, belly button, behind knees, in between toes) and all areas with hair. Ticks love warm, dark places and they can be as small as a poppy seed!
Take a shower to wash off any sweat or dirt, and to complete one final body scan just to be sure.
What to do if you find a tick attached to your skin:
Stay calm. The odds of contracting Lyme disease in the first 24 hours is extremely low.
Use clean tweezers to grasp the tick’s head as close to your skin as possible and pull straight out, without twisting or squeezing.
Place the tick in a clean, sealed container. This will help your doctor with diagnosis should you experience symptoms at a later date.
Wash the area thoroughly with antibacterial soap and water.
Contact your doctor within 72 hours to explain what happened and discuss the need for antibiotics. According to the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society, there is evidence that suggests that the immediate use of antibiotics may effectively prevent the infection of Lyme disease following the bite of certain ticks.
In addition to following the advice of your doctor, pay attention to the bite site for up to a month. If you notice a rash forming or if you experience any of the following symptoms, notify your doctor.
Fever, aching muscles and joints, swollen lymph nodes, headache, fatigue, weakness or paralysis of the face muscles, or chills.
For our canine friends, tick checks and removal are also important. If you’ve removed a tick from your dog, look out for the following symptoms that may be an indication of Lyme disease and a reason to contact your veterinarian.
Swollen or painful joints, general weakness, lethargy, fever, kidney problems, or loss of appetite.
As pet owners, it is up to us to ensure that our furry family members beat the heat this summer. Help your pet avoid the negative effects of sun exposure, and learn how natural pet care can support your summer activities, with these seasonal tips.
What can you do to help end youth homelessness? Join Back to Earth in supporting CovenantHouse Vancouver’s Sleep Out: Home Edition fundraising event. Donate to the cause, Sleep Outon July 10th, 2020 so that youth don’t have to, or spread awareness about this vital issue byjoining the global conversation.
The 3rd Sunday of June is a day to pay tribute to all our fathers and father figures. A time to recognize the strength in diversity, and an opportunity to celebrate our own father’s impact, sacrifices, and contributions. Happy Father’s Day to all!