Don’t bring ticks home on your Christmas tree

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Following a recent case in Alberta of a tick found in a Christmas tree that was privately cut down, the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation is warning people to be careful this holiday season.

Foundation President Jim Wilson says it’s not very common but it does happen, adding ticks are active right now.

“I would be more concerned with the habitat that people are going out into to get these trees. That is putting them at a higher risk than actually the tick on the tree itself. Ticks don’t generally reside in trees. They’re usually on the ground, under decaying leaf litter or grassy areas, under shrubbery — that sort of thing. The decaying action of the leaves or grass creates heat and they get under there and live in that little warmer environment.”

He explains once they’re in your home or on your clothes it can be very difficult to get rid of the insects.

“They’ll attach themselves to people. A lot of people, when they come in from the outdoors, they go and throw their clothes in the washing machine, that’s not effective. The ticks will float to the surface of the water, climb out of the machine and now they’re in your house. If you think you may have brought ticks in on clothing, take your clothes off and throw them in the dryer. Put the dryer on for 15 minutes and that will kill any tick.”

Aside from shaking out a live tree before you take it home, Wilson says there are a couple of other things you can do.

“There is clothing that is soaked in permethrin, which is a very effective tick repellent, and it’s been available in other countries for decades but it’s finally, in the last two years, been available in Canada. It’s good for about 70 washes, so that’s one option. Also, there are products with icaridin, as opposed to DEET.”

Wilson also reminds you ticks carry more than just Lyme disease — they carry several illnesses.

“For Lyme disease, you can get a rash but most people will not get a rash of any kind. If you start getting flu-like symptoms, don’t necessarily assume it’s the flu, especially if you’ve been outdoors recently. If you’re getting aches and pains or swollen joints, headaches, neck pain — that kind of thing, then Lyme disease will hopefully be at the top of the list for the doctor because on the Lower Mainland you’re at risk 12 months of the year because it doesn’t generally get cold enough to put the ticks into their winter dormancy.”

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