Tick Tock Tick by James L. Bruner
Ah. Here we are finally reaching that point in the year where the weather has warmed for most of the nation to actually say that summer is here. The majority of kids are out of school, or at least close, and the camping season is in full swing. The once muddy trails have become alluring to those wanderers and hikers who quite simply just enjoy the time out of doors. And with this time of year come a new host of critters being born and the brigades of creep crawly things that many people dread each year. One of those that seem to have a repulsive reaction is the woodtick. Yes, that blood-sucking little demon that lives merely to feast on blood whether from human or animal and relishes in the action of gorging itself until it’s nearly ready to explode. Man, you just have to love summer!
One of the main fears of the woodtick isn’t actually the idea of having this nuisance crawling on you. Well, there are those folks that completely go spastic when they see a tick but that’s a different breed altogether. It’s the disease that can be attributed to the connection. Lyme disease is a very real possibility in some areas that have higher than average numbers of cases reported. So just what is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease has reportedly been named after Lyme, Connecticut in the late 1970’s when a cluster of reports were documented by researchers from the Naval Submarine Medical center. In actuality there is a case that was documented 6 years earlier by a man who contracted Lyme disease after being bitten by a tick while grouse hunting in Wisconsin. However, there are cases of Lyme disease symptoms dated back as far as 1883 In Breslau Germany which leads much debate as to the true origin of what we now call Lyme disease. Not that it matters who or where the credit is given rather than we understand it is here and it can create health issues. This article isn’t intended to keep people from enjoying the outdoors by any means. Let’s simply educate ourselves on some basics, symptoms, and possible treatments when dealing with ticks.
Lyme disease, if contracted, can be treated in the earliest stages so lets familiarize ourselves with the symptoms.
Flu-like symptoms are something we all understand and one of the most noted attributes of Lyme disease. Now that symptom alone is extremely broad and realistically could cover just about anything so there are more singular symptoms to look for. A rash, for instance, that has appeared in an unexplained fashion after being in the woods or around pets that have access to the outdoors in known tick territory. The rash can develop in as quickly as a day or a month later and size varies from anywhere between the size of a nickel to a persons entire upper torso. Another commonly reported symptom is stiffness in joints and fatigue. Add in the flu-like symptoms of headaches, and muscular aches and you may have some reason to concern yourself especially if you have located a localized rash in an area where you have removed a tick. Speaking of which lets talk about removing woodticks.
Personally I’ve never given a whole lot of thought about proper techniques. I grab them and pull them out usually hauling away a small chunk of skin with the tick. I’ve seen people smother the tick in vaseline or other similar substances hoping the tick would back-out of the skin since it would need to breathe. In my eyes it just made the little bugger harder to grip because it sure didn’t detach and try to make a getaway. I’ve also seen and been the victim of the heat treatment. I believe it was back in 4th grade after a camping trip when I felt something in my ear several days later. Dad investigated and said sure enough it was a woodtick. Now since he couldn’t grab the tick with tweezers for some reason he decided that the old heat trick should work. I had never been privileged to this secret information so I had no clue what was about to happen until dad come walking over with a lit cigarette. Uh oh. This doesn’t look cool. It didn’t sound or feel cool either! I do remember a sudden feeling of losing my balance in between the boiling wax in my ear as I tipped my head sideways and let the heat of the cigarette rush into my right ear like a stovepipe. I’m not sure if the tick died from cancer or couldn’t stand the heat but he came out. In reality there are recommended methods for removing a woodtick which consist of using tweezers to grab the tick as close to the skin as possible applying enough force to pull him straight out. That’s pretty much it. No need to twist clockwise with a half-nelson movement or anything fancy. Some professionals entertain the idea of saving the tick in a jar just in case he was a carrier of Lyme disease. I simply don’t have that many jars but for those who rarely receive a bite from a tick the suggestions carries a lot of merit. Yes, ticks are a common occurrence here. So let’s have a look at treatments for Lyme disease shall we?
As with any disease the treatment can vary from one extreme to the next. Nothing is pre-determined in the medical field for a broad treatment as each case may be considered with current underlying medical problems. In the early stages of Lyme disease a very basic oral application may be used to stem the symptoms and treat effectively. In more severe cases treatment may call for intravenous applications and all medical protocol will vary in treatment lengths according to reaction from the patient. Symptoms can relapse even after treatment and may require additional care on higher levels according to evaluation of diagnosis. Worse case scenarios can be debilitating physical well-being and emotional distress. Deaths from Lyme disease are considered few enough to be categorized as rare. The best avenue for protection against Lyme disease is prevention. So let’s move along and conclude with some preventive measures.
A tick-repelling spray is the first choice for many people and works quite well in most instances depending on the weather and the terrain. Wet or extremely soggy areas of travel may dilute your defensive measure so keep in mind that it may be necessary to re-apply sprays or other similar commercial applications. Light colored clothing is a good choice for those who can make use of this technique. Obviously there will be situations such as hunting or fishing when that option isn’t the best advice but for general walking or hiking this can be implemented. Tucking your clothes such as pant legs and shirts can help close the door on a few ticks that may allow enough time to be spotted visually and removed and of course periodically checking yourself for ticks will certainly help. For those with pets a good commercial repellant can be a necessity. Pets are a perfect host for ticks and a great carrier for bringing those unwanted pests inside your home.
All in all if you take proper precautions and understand the techniques for removing ticks and spotting potential infection areas you can greatly reduce the probability of a trip to the doctor. It’s summer time. Get out and enjoy the outdoors. The ticks sure will!