By Anne Bright
Published: Aug 4, 2014
When my husband and I packed up the fur-kids destined for our usual camping spot along Elaho Valley river, we anticipated a soggy setup followed by much relaxation by the fire. What we didn’t anticipate was a battle with a sesame seed-size insect, hours of treatment research and a refresher course on Lyme disease, an infection caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, a type of bacterium that is carried by the deer tick.
Like many, before camping we follow rituals including applying bug spray, fleece and hats and treating our pets with Advantage. Then, we leash up and hit trails beneath canopies of lush evergreens.
Unlike many, the pets we hike alongside are felines. Rather than sticking to the main trail, they prefer skulking under low brush which keeps us busy untethering leashes from bushes. This environment is where ticks thrive. Having observed canines bitten and ticks cautiously removed, we remain alert at all times.
On Canada Day, we faced our first human tick crisis. My husband felt a tick bite his forearm. Panic-stricken, I grabbed a paper towel and said, “I didn’t pack tweezers and we can’t use our fingers to grab it.” Pinching the broken skin together prevented the tick from burrowing in. Once removed, we put it into the fire, cleaned the forearm, swabbing with alcohol and applied a Band-Aid. The next few hours were spent observing for signs and symptoms of infection, fine-tooth combing the felines and inspecting the tent trailer from top to bottom. Fortunately, the bite proved harmless. The tick was not engorged and had not taken a blood meal.
I contacted Dr. Gordon of Garibaldi Health Clinic. She shared information about the very real dangers of ticks, Lyme disease, symptoms, ways to prevent being bitten and, if bitten, the importance of saving the tick to be tested. Dr. Gordon said, “Testing in Canada isn’t as good as testing at some labs in the United States. We usually send blood samples to the United States. Hopefully Canada’s labs will improve.”
Because we can’t live in fear and indoors forever, as pointed out by my husband when I suggested we do just that, here are a few tips on how to guard against falling victim to these tiny predators:
1. Talk to your veterinarian about natural repellents, Advantage and the Lyme vaccine;
2 Familiarize yourself with what ticks look like;
3. Note peak tick seasons; late April, May and June and then again in late Aug, Sept and Oct;
4. Use a repellent with DEET on skin and clothing (do not use on pets);
5. Walk in the center of trails;
6. Tuck pants inside socks/boots, zip up jackets and wear hats;
7. Keep a first-aid kit, including tweezers and gloves (restock at Squamish Pharmacy on Cleveland);
8. When home, strip, examine for ticks and place clothes in dryer on high heat;
9. Shower and help one another perform thorough body checks; and
10. Raise awareness.
Tick numbers are rising in BC, due to climate change, less pesticide use and increase in the white-tailed deer population. We must resolve to not let them manage our lives and instead educate and protect ourselves so that we can manage them.
To learn more, click Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, protect pets by visiting CanLyme and read great informative articles such as Lyme Disease and Lyme Disease Revisited written by Dr. Gordon.