If I had the power to solve one problem in this world, it wouldn’t be world peace, or hunger, or inventing a longer-lasting light bulb. I’d get rid of ticks. There, I said it.
Ticks have given me the heebie-jeebies since I was about 6 and my mom explained to me what that wierd bug was doing as she pulled it out of my skin. I about had a fit of the dry-heaves watching it pull my skin with it and I decided that these evil creatures were a good thing to hate. Later in life, when I found out that they communicate diseases, it just made my hatred that much more vindicated.
Spring is officially here, with the departure of the mounds of snow and the arrival of 50+ degree temps. I also mark the arrival of spring with the first tick sighting. Much to my chagrin, it was buried in me by my collarbone and I discovered it after a shower. My son and I had been out geocaching, and since we were still wading through knee-deep snow in spots, I figured we’d be good in the parasite department. Wrong. My dog has also had a couple already on him this year as well, since he likes running about in the woods after squirrels and other furry woodland creatures. So start keeping an eye out, folks!
What to look for?
These are the lil’ bastids you’re looking for. All ticks can carry forms of diseases, but far and away the champion in the “oh shit” department is the one in the top row, the Black-Legged, or Deer tick. They are famous for transmitting Lyme’s disease, Anaplasmosis, and Babeosis. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is transmitted by the Dog Tick. For a list of other tick-borne diseases and which ticks transmit them, check out the CDC page here. Ticks pick up diseases from latching onto and feeding off rodents (primarily) when they are in the nymph and/or larva stages, then dropping off, molting, and latching onto a human or bigger creature and then feeding off that host, spreading the disease from a former host. It’s all pretty appalling if you ask me.
What if I’m bitten by a tick?
Once you’re bitten by a tick (the CDC says the best way not to get bitten by a tick is to not go where they are. Duh.), you have to get it out of you. Early detection is the best (I’ve been told a tick must be attached to you for 48 hours for it to transmit diseases, but my research didn’t support this…nevertheless, the sooner you get it out the better.), and it must be pulled out. Using heat to get it to pull out, or painting it with vaseline or nail polish to inhibit its breathing will just result in a dead tick still stuck to you. Using tweezers and grabbing as close to its head as possible, or using a tick removal tool such as these and pulling with steady straight outward pressure will do the job. Don’t twist or yank, as this has a higher probability of leaving the mouth parts inside of you, causing a possible infection. If a little piece of your skin comes off with the tick, you got all of the tick.
As soon as the tick is off you, you may want to save it in case you develop symptoms of tick-borne diseases. Scrub the area clean with soap and water, and rubbing alcohol. Wash your hands thoroughly as well. It would probably be a good idea to check the rest of your body out, perhaps while listening to this.
Keep tabs on yourself after you’ve been bitten. Many tick diseases (Lyme’s in particular) will have tell-tale signs such as this “bullseye” rash:
Also, the CDC has this to say about symptoms that are common to almost all tick-borne diseases:
Fever/chills: With all tickborne diseases, patients can experience fever at varying degrees and time of onset.
Aches and pains: Tickborne disease symptoms include headache, fatigue, and muscle aches. With Lyme disease you may also experience joint pain. The severity and time of onset of these symptoms can depend on the disease and the patient’s personal tolerance level.
- In Lyme disease, the rash may appear within 3-30 days, typically before the onset of fever. The Lyme disease rash is the first sign of infection and is usually a circular rash called erythema migrans or EM. This rash occurs in approximately 70-80% of infected persons and begins at the site of a tick bite. It may be warm, but is not usually painful. Some patients develop additional EM lesions in other areas of the body several days later.
- The rash of (STARI) is nearly identical to that of Lyme disease, with a red, expanding “bulls eye” lesion that develops around the site of a lone star tick bite. Unlike Lyme disease, STARI has not been linked to any arthritic or neurologic symptoms.
- The rash seen with Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) varies greatly from person to person in appearance, location, and time of onset. About 10% of people with RMSF never develop a rash. Most often, the rash begins 2-5 days after the onset of fever as small, flat, pink, non-itchy spots (macules) on the wrists, forearms, and ankles and spreads to the trunk. It sometimes involves the palms and soles. The red to purple, spotted (petechial) rash of RMSF is usually not seen until the sixth day or later after onset of symptoms and occurs in 35-60% of patients with the infection.
- In the most common form of tularemia, a skin ulcer appears at the site where the organism entered the body. The ulcer is accompanied by swelling of regional lymph glands, usually in the armpit or groin.
- In about 30% of patients (and up to 60% of children), ehrlichiosis can cause a rash. The appearance of the rash ranges from macular to maculopapular to petechial, and may appear after the onset of fever.
Tickborne diseases can result in mild symptoms treatable at home to severe infections requiring hospitalization. Although easily treated with antibiotics, these diseases can be difficult for physicians to diagnose. However, early recognition and treatment of the infection decreases the risk of serious complications. So see your doctor immediately if you have been bitten by a tick and experience any of the symptoms described here.
How does this affect us?
As people who might have a propensity for being outdoors often, preppers, survivalists, hikers, outdoorsmen, hunters, fishermen, all have a much higher risk of being bitten by ticks. With a little bit of vigilance, though, this possibility can be mostly negated. Check yourself, your clothes, and your gear over COMPLETELY when returning in from the woods – ticks can latch onto your clothing and find you later. But, gone unchecked, tick-borne diseases can and will screw you up for life. Lyme’s disease will destroy your joints, nervous system (leading to possible paralysis) and your circulatory system. A normal course of antibiotics will straighten things out if caught early enough, but obviously, if there are no antibiotics to be had, you are in a world of hurt. So in this case in particular, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Keep an eye on yourself, pets, and loved ones when you get out in the woods.
For further reading, I definitely recommend the CDC page on ticks. I learned a lot from it, so I’m sure you could too. Now I’m gonna go check myself over, because just writing this post has given me case of the creepy-crawlies like you wouldn’t believe.