I'm not sure how I've been so lucky but I have NEVER encountered a tick in BC until this year. Unfortunately it looks like my luck has run out and my poor dog, Sage, ended up getting bitten by not just one but four ticks while we were camping in Howe Sound! I was seriously horrified. And so began my mission to learn more about them and how to stop future bites!
The first place I looked was the Government of BC info page on Ticks to search out which types we needed to watch out for here on the West Coast. It looks like the species we encountered was the Western Black Legged Tick which can be a carrier for the organism that causes Lyme Disease. I also learned that ticks cannot jump and do not drop out of trees into your hair (thank goodness!!) but actually climb up to the top of a piece of grass and wait with their arms raised to grab anything walking by that they think might be tasty. They then hunt for warm spots to feed, like your head, underarms, groin and other hidden areas (gross!).
I generally try to avoid potentially dangerous pesticides as much as possible in my life (and on my dog) but after reading more about the serious impact Lyme and other tick related diseases can have on your health I was definitely more inclined to use the recommended DEET on myself and Permethrin on Sage the next time we went camping in an area known for ticks.
I wanted to investigate other natural options for Tick repellants as well though since the Western Black Legged Tick is most active in the spring and summer (prime camping season!) and I'm still not entirely comfortable regularly applying pesticides to any members of my family.
These are some helpful suggestions I found for keeping the little biters at bay:
- Wear light coloured pants and socks so that it is easy to spot them if they grab onto you.
- Tuck those light coloured pants into your light coloured socks to keep them away from your skin. (Don't worry, I'm pretty sure this will be on all the major run-ways soon.)
- Regularly check yourself and your pets for ticks with a thorough rub down/pat of your entire body paying special attention to prime tick hide-outs in the scalp, base of neck and groin in humans and between the toes, nether-regions and neck/ears for dogs. (My dog hates having her paws touched so regular checks between each of her toes are so fun but safety first!)
- If you do spot a feeding tick remove it ASAP with a slow gentle pull with fingers or tweezers to the base of the attached area (or try this handy dandy Tick Key like the one I just got to make it even easier... they shipped very fast and even included a hand written note with instructions. So nice!)
- Avoid areas with long grass and vegetation if possible.
- One natural repellant that I've tried is Rose Geranium Oil after reading this blog post in Primally Inspired - it's apparently important to get the Pelargonium capitatum x radens variety for it to repel ticks which was a little tricky to find but worth it since it seems to work great (no ticks on any of my family - furry or not!) and as a bonus it smells amazing!
If anyone else has suggestions for Tick repelling strategies they've used I'd love to hear them. Let's all stay safe in the woods!