Ticks: Can’t live with them, can’t live…wait, what?!

It’s getting to be that time of year again, when patrons of the forest head into the woods to reclaim their rightful place in the outdoors, even if only for a few months. Like most folks, I am like a little kid on Christmas when I venture back into the woods after such a long absence. I may have been slightly naive when I followed my dog into the woods for a walk in mid-August. It was a rainy day and we stayed on the path while he sniffed around and I searched for animal tracks. The rain increased to the point where the canopy no longer protected us, so we made our way back to the shelter of my house. While we waited for the rain to stop, I kept feeling something on my legs and arms. Thinking it was just an ant or mosquito, I brushed at it and kept on about my business. It wasnt until sometime later that I took a closer look, and realized that I was covered with hundreds of tiny seed ticks! Instantly, out went the dog and I jumped in the shower with a pair of tweezers.

Lyme Desease Rocky mountain spotted fever Two hours later, I felt fairly confident that I’d gotten them all off. Except for four very swollen and itchy bumps, there was no sign that the incident ever happened. I treated the bites with alcohol and didn’t give it a second thought. After all, they were only ticks. I’d had them all my life with no problems. Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever seemed like a myth around my part of the country. I may have only known one person my entire life that was infected.

Three weeks later, I started feeling generally crappy after work. I laid on the couch and started running a fever. That night, I couldn’t sleep a wink for the fever, chills, headache, and cramps. In the morning, I felt like I’d been hit by a train. Usually I’m the guy that is very physically active all the time, but I literally couldn’t sit up in bed. After my wife helped me stand up, it was all I could do to walk a few steps to the kitchen for a drink of water. It took two hands and all the strength I could muster to open my back door, which could easily be opened by a three year old girl. A visit to the doctor confirmed that I didn’t have the flu, and she couldn’t pinpoint what was wrong with me. She was very concerned after I casually mentioned the tick situation, but I didn’t show the usual symptoms of Lyme disease or RMSF. After picking up a healthy prescription of doxycycline, I headed home to hopefully pass away in peace. For the next four days, I felt like a 90 year old, having to ask for help to get up from a chair or carry in the groceries. After some research, I self-diagnosed myself with Ehrlichiosis, which is a type of disease carried by ticks, but without the publicity, characterized by high fever, chills, and severe muscle aches and weakness.

If you must venture into the woods or high grass during this time of year, please don’t brush off the dangers of ticks. Follow these precautions before heading out to whatever adventure awaits:

  • Use insect repellant
  • Wear light colored clothing to apt ticks easily
  • Use insect repellant
  • Wear enclosed shoes, long pants, and long sleeves. Tuck pants legs into boots or socks, and tuck shirt into pants
  • Use insect repellant
  • Check clothes and exposed skin frequently while outdoors and check again once back inside
  • Avoid unnecessary contact with vegetationEhrlichiosis permethrin DEET
  • Use insect repellant
  • Avoid sitting directly on the ground
  • And let me reiterate. USE INSECT REPELLANT.

Happy trails and good hunting!

**Note from the Editor**

While standard DEET based insect repellant is better than nothing at all, for maximum protection against ticks use a Peremethrin based product. Permethrin based repellants are made to treat clothing and bond to fabrics, repelling and even killing ticks, mosquitos, chiggers, and other nastys. More on that later. Also, Sam is still alive.