Ticked off

Seriously? Just as I was getting comfortable with, though not complacent about, the different pointy toothed, sharp clawed wildlife that wanders these parts, a new source of anxiety has reared its ugly head – it’s tick season.

I wasn’t aware there were ticks in these parts, or a tick season. But there are, and the season has begun. It’s the talk of the town, well, the schools. The kids came home from school the other day having been briefed on the dangers of ticks. I’m not sure what the briefing involved exactly, but it made an impression. My son took the precaution of tucking his trousers into his socks for the bus ride home. He continues to do so whenever he leaves the house.

In the days that followed, the fact that this guy…

Yep, a cougar. Photo taken by a neighbour from his back deck.

…was lurking near the play park on our street and on the trail that runs behind our house was of little concern to the kids compared to the potential danger posed by ticks in those same places. The tick concerns have also been amplified by the fact that we recently adopted this adorable chap who is also very at risk of ticks (and cougars):

Meet Chester Bearpaws

And to be sure, ticks are not nice – either to be bitten by or to look at. They can carry a variety of diseases, including the altogether very debilitating though generally not life-threatening Lyme disease. According to the Lyme Disease Association of Alberta (LDAA), there are 16 species of ticks living in Alberta, including the blacklegged tick which can carry Lyme disease bacteria. Attractive little critters:

Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 16.34.12
Graphic courtesy of Gripped Magazine

LDAA have dispelled one of the myths that i’d hitherto believed – that you do not need to be hiking deep in the woods to get a tick bite. Ticks can be found in your yard, garden, logs, low brush and along pathways and trails in cities. And pets can bring ticks into your home.

If you have the misfortune to be bitten by one carrying Lyme disease bacteria, early symptoms can appear as flu-like and may include fatigue, headache, fever, nausea, muscle aches and stiffness – all of which i’ve experienced in the last few days but put down to jet lag and sleep deprivation. Mis-diagnosis of Lyme disease is apparently quite common…

While it is, of course, important to be aware of these things, one shouldn’t become paranoid in the same way that I was about bears. As with the bears, it all requires a bit of understanding and perspective. Between 1991 and 2014, 63 cases of Lyme disease were reported to Alberta Health. All were reported as having been acquired while travelling outside of the province in areas where the bacteria causing Lyme disease is known to circulate. There was an increase in the number of ticks submitted by Albertans but a decrease in the number of blacklegged ticks (that are known to carry Lyme disease bacteria) and of ticks that were positive for the bacteria. In short, according to Alberta Health, the risk of being bitten by a blacklegged tick is low. The risk of being bitten by a blacklegged tick infected with the Lyme disease bacteria, is even lower.

But the risk exists and so it pays to exercise some caution. As the LDAA says, prevention is critical – check for ticks regularly on body/hair and use insect repellent. You should also wear light coloured long pants tucked into socks, long sleeve shirts and closed toe shoes. Luckily, my running wardrobe can accommodate this, at least while it’s still relatively cool. While I stopped short of tucking my tights into my socks before yesterday’s outing on the Highline, I did take the precaution of making sure they were pulled down over my socks with ankle zippers done up.

And if you do find a tick on your or someone else’s person, instructions for removal can be found here on the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation website.

Anyway, high time I got back to some posts about running. Stay tuned for the next route post (which I promised already in the previous post), coming soon.

Until then, happy trails.

2 thoughts on “Ticked off

  1. Sue Omstead 23/04/2015 / 12:59

    Looking forward to meeting the new animal in the neighbourhood when we return…..that would be your new pup…..not the cougar!….and certainly not the ticks!! Glad to see you’re recovered. Hope all is well!


  2. Lyn 02/05/2015 / 02:15

    Al says you’ve got far too much time on your hands!!!!!! Off to New Forest for a walk today with all the family and Kate’s dog – gonna tuck trousers in socks and get everyone else to do same………Thanks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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