I’ve never have claimed to be a chick magnet, but I think it’s safe to say that I am a tick magnet.
Where those with normal pheromones can tread without fear of the little bloodsuckers, I will bring home a half-dozen of them, swollen up like little marbles as they suck out my life fluids. They wait in gangs at the corner of deer trails to mug me. If I sit down on a stump, you can bet it’s a tick condo. They pile on me like Japanese workers fitting themselves into a Tokyo train when I walk through a cane break or a clearcut.
Tick bites are more annoying than dangerous most of the time, but there is some reason for concern. According to the national Center for Disease Control, a small percentage of the ticks here in Alabama carry Lyme disease.
According to the American Lyme Disease Foundation (ALDF), there’s one case per million people in Alabama in an average year. However, it’s a sure thing that hunters, hikers and campers are more likely to get it than those whose feet never step off the sidewalks; there are a lot of ticks in the woods of Alabama in some areas, epidemic practically, so it pays to be vigilant. Some deer are loaded with ticks, and when a hunter harvests one and hauls it out of the woods, the little vampires have an excellent chance to change hosts.
Lyme disease has been ascribed so many symptoms that they become meaningless; fever, sweats, chills, flushing, fatigue, swollen glands, sore throat, pelvic pain, urinary problems, loss of libido, upset stomach, stiffness in the joints, back and neck, muscle pain, cramps, twitching, headaches, tingling, numbness, burning and stabbing sensations–you name it. It is a disease tailor made for hypochondriacs, malingerers and disability cheats, and many doctors are reluctant to diagnose it because of that outside the core areas of occurrence in the northeastern U.S.
Even if a tick infected with Lyme disease bites you, that does not mean you’re going to get the disease. Doctors say it takes hours for the transmission to take place, and if you get the tick out promptly, odds are good there will be no problem.
According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, best way to get a tick out is with tweezers, grasping the body as close to the skin as possible. With a steady motion, pull on the tick until it either lets go or its head pops off (yecchh!). Avoid crushing or touching the body–throw it in the trash or flush it down the toilet.
The CDC says that even though mouth parts may remain temporarily embedded in your skin, they can no longer transmit the Lyme disease bacteria once they’re separated from the body.
Clean the spot with soap and water, then blot with alcohol and you’re done. In a few days the head will work its way out of your skin.
That’s the way it’s supposed to go–but how will you know if you’re that one in a million Alabamian who caught the disease?
Look for the bulls eye. In most cases, an infection from a bite soon shows a red ring around the bite-location. The ring may be anywhere from a couple inches to the size of a softball. If you see this pattern, you need to see a doctor, pronto–and sometimes, even when the disease is present, there’s no ring–first real symptoms are achy joints and headaches, doctors say.
Early stage Lyme disease can be cured by heavy doses of antibiotics. Allowed to progress, however, it can hang on for years and be very hard to suppress. Use insect spray any time you’re in the woods, shower immediately when you get home and check your skin regularly and odds are you’ll have few problems this summer with ticks.