As Greater Victorians take to the outdoors in the summer heat, another creature, often at odds with the first, will also be taking in some rays.
It’s tick season on southern Vancouver Island, and the Vancouver Island Health Authority is reminding residents to take a few small steps to minimize chances of getting bitten by the pesky, sometimes disease-carrying arachnids.
“Pretty much all of southern Vancouver Island is a potential area for ticks,” said Dr. Dee Hoyano, VIHA medical health officer. “I imagine they’d be out in the West Shore just as they would be in other parts of Victoria.”
Ticks live off blood and bite into various animals, including humans, to find sustenance.
Ticks can’t jump, but they will wait on grasses and bushes for an animal to brush by, at which point they will grab on and bite in.
To help avoid bites, the authority recommends covering up with light-coloured clothing when walking through areas of tall grass, brush or woods, even tucking a long-sleeve shirt into pants, and tucking pants into shoes or socks.
Sticking to cleared trails is another tactic, as is applying insect repellant with DEET. It’s also a good idea to check yourself and your clothing for the little bloodsuckers after a walk. Regularly checking pets for ticks is also important.
While rare, ticks can carry lyme disease, an infectious disease caused by bacteria. In B.C. there are about 18 cases of lyme disease diagnosed annually, while the Island sees between three and five each year.
“If it’s caught when it first presents and it’s treated with antibiotics, the vast majority of people do just fine,” Hoyano said. “Sometimes if the disease isn’t treated, then people can go on and develop very serious complications from it.”
When someone is bitten by a tick, it typically takes a week or more for symptoms of lyme disease to show up. The most common symptoms are fever, chills, headache, joint pain and swollen lymph glands.
The most obvious sign is a “bullseye rash,” often at the location of the bite, a red rash which looks like a target.
If you’re bitten by a tick, the best way to remove it is with tweezers, Hoyano said. The goal is to remove the whole tick without breaking off the buried head, so it’s important to pull the tick from a point as close to the skin as possible.
The old idea of using heat to remove a tick, from a match or lit cigarette, is not the best way, she said, because the head may remain.
“It’s better to try to remove it with tweezers or go in to see your doctor if you can’t get it out.”
For more preventative tips on avoiding tick bites, or after care, visit www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthfiles/hfile01.stm.