This morning I moved the recycle bin towards the road and went back inside my house to do some dishes. I felt a sharp pain and there he was, a small tick biting my arm. One minute of being outside, not in the woods or rolling in the grass, on my driveway near a tree.
Never mind the fact that the continuous rain will produce so many damp regions we will have an influx of mosquitoes like never before, it is time to routinely scan yourself and loved ones for ticks.
Deer ticks that are able to transmit Lyme disease carry a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi. These little monsters sit perched on the edge of a plant with their front legs extended so they can latch onto anything. Then they look for a nice place to set up camp, usually they like the back of knees, genital areas, waist line, arm pits and head but will settle for some forearm real estate if available.
- Dress in light clothing so you can spot the ticks.
- Duck tape your pant legs to your shoes or tuck them into your socks.
- Spray bug spray with deet or permethrin on your clothing to repel (permethrin is formed from a derivative of a chrysanthemum plant, however both may have dangerous side-effects when used repeatedly and on the skin directly). Wash you hands after applying spray or touching the clothing.
- Permethrin is hands down the best repellent and used by the military.
- Drop your drawers before going inside and put the clothes in the washer immediately.
- Have somebody thoroughly check you head to toe when you come in from outdoors.
- Place a gravel or wood chip barrier between your lawn and the weeds or woods as ticks like shade and moist environments.
If you do find a tick the best way to remove them is with a tweezers. Grab the head, grip it and rip it. No I’m kidding. Work that little bug out by the head and try not to squeeze the body as that will push the bacteria and goop into your body. That will increase the chance of something being transmitted to you. Also a tick usually needs to be attached for 36 – 48 hours to transmit something to you according to the CDC.
If possible, put the offending tick into a zip lock bag in case you need it to be tested or brought in for identification. It isn’t as rewarding as squishing it but it will die a slow death in there eventually. Slap it on the fridge with a magnet or tape it to the inside of a cabinet door. You could also use a jar to hold your new pet.
So if you are bitten, of course seek medical attention immediately so you can start a course of antibiotics to reduce the chance of infection if needed. If you see a red rash, redness and swelling or the classic bulls eye appearance where the bite occurred you definitely need to see your doctor.
For every case reported about 7 to 12 are not according to the CDC, and overall the reported cases are definitely rising. Part of that is because we are more aware of it now.
There is also a Lone Star tick, which has a white spot resembling a star. These guys rarely transmit Lyme disease but can carry a bunch of other ones. Memo to self, all ticks are bad.
Early symptoms of Lyme disease include:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Joint and Muscle stiffness
- Bell’s palsy or facial paralysis
- Nerve problems in the hands or legs
- Inflammation of heart muscle, which can lead to abnormal heart patterns or heart failure
- Arthritis like symptoms, joint stiffness and pain
Many patients seek relief from professions like medicine, chiropractic or massage treatment to alleviate the pain and stiffness they have in their joints. Often the symptoms make the patient believe it is arthritic pains, Lupus, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Fibromyalgia for example.
Blood work can be done to see if there is a specific arthritis causing the problems to better determine a solution. Sometimes the blood work will be negative. In that case a Western Blow test or Elisha blood test may be ordered to try to diagnose the condition as Lyme related.
Different types of antibiotics are used to fight the symptoms of Lyme disease depending on how long the disease has existed. The sooner you start antibiotics once you have determined it is Lyme disease the greater your chance of reducing the symptoms.
I have friends in their 40’s who complain how painful it is to get out of bed, how they feel like their 90 and that their joints bother them constantly.
They vary in size too. They can be as small as a “period mark” of a sentence or 1mm to the size of an apple seed. Usually the most harmful ones are about 1-2mm. That is why you want help checking for ticks when you come back indoors.
That means hunters, landscapers, construction workers, Public Utility employees, apple pickers and outdoor lovers should be careful. Although most bites occur during the spring and summer, a tick will bite you whenever it has a chance. Always be prepared.