With the warm spring weather, ticks have made their appearance, bringing with them the risk of disease.
Jennifer Jeyes, a communicable disease specialist with the Interior Health Authority, said the ticks which transmit Lyme disease are rare in the Okanagan Valley, but other tick-borne infections can occur here.
Ticks are small bugs which feed on the blood of people and animals.
The most common tick species in the B.C. Interior is the wood tick, which does not carry the Lyme disease bacteria.
Wood ticks can transmit other diseases, including Rocky Mountain spotted fever, although this disease is rare.
Other ticks have toxins which can cause temporary muscle weakness and paralysis if the tick is attached for several days.
Jeyes urges those who have been out in tall grass or wooded areas to check themselves and remove ticks.
To remove a tick, Jeyes suggests wearing gloves, grasping the tick near the skin and pulling it straight out.
The tick should not be squeezed, or its stomach contents can be injected into the skin.
After the tick has been removed, the area should be cleaned with soap and water.
“Not all tick bites are going to result in illness, but any break in the skin could result in infection,” Jeyes said.
Those who experience symptoms from a tick bite should see a doctor.
To take precautions against tick bites, Interior Health recommends walking on cleared trails, wearing a hat, long sleeves, pants and light clothing, tucking pant legs into socks or boots. Insect repellent containing DEET should be applied to uncovered skin.
The clothing and scalp should be checked later and those who have been in areas where ticks may live should shower when returning.
To reduce ticks at the home and yard, Interior Health recommends keeping the lawn short and removing fallen leaves and weeds, keeping a buffer area between the lawn and wooded areas and trimming branches to allow more sunlight into the yard. Wood piles and bird feeders should be kept away from the house.