During my trips through the grasses collecting botanicals for dyeing and weaving, I'm conscious of a lot of hazards in the wild and free area I'm living in right now. Bears, coyotes and wolves to name the larger, unlikely predators (though as I write I am hearing wolves calling), snakes...oh boy, I really hate snakes, poison ivy, hemlock and sumac. The smallest, but largest danger I think of most is the deer tick. And it's in this thought I'm conscious of the worry my friend Allison has for me. It is for her I am doing this.
Known to cause several strands of bacterium, Borrelia Mayonii and Borrelia Burgdorferi are the most known, however, there are more types of Borrelia throughout many regions which are now influencing the contraction outcome. The nymph and adult staged Black Legged Tick equally carry this disease - Nymph mostly during the summer months and the Adult in the fall. The Deer Tick still is most commonly found on the Northeastern states (known as the Ixodes scapularis), but more cases are found throughout the U.S. as time goes on. In Southern states it's known as the Lonestar Tick and in Western states a slightly different tick (Ixodes pacificus). And let me point out the importance of research; despite the underfunding it has been discovered that Lyme has been found in Japan as a strand called Borrelia Miyamotoi and that same strand is now here in the U.S. Though the Wood ticks that are found on dogs are also a hard ticks species they are not the same and do not carry the bacteria known to cause Lyme. Both hard ticks however carry many bacterium's that cause serious illness and infection outside of Lyme. Neither should be considered less offending. When found early, treatment is about a month long antibiotic. I've been told still it's not an easy road.
Nymphs deer ticks are quite a bit smaller than the adults, measuring 1mm - close to a poppy seed, with 6 legs until they reach maturity gaining 2 more like the 8-legged adults. The female adults measure 3-5mm pin-head sized, and larger than the males according to Orkin's description. During the summer months nymph ticks lay in wait grasping the blades of grass with their back legs and front legs held aloft, waiting for a victim. The Ixodes pacificus seem to me much more aggressive. According to Orkin, unlike their eastern relative, they can climb as high as 3-4' by climbing up floor litter, logs, etc to wait for their target. Though summer and fall are harvesting months for botanicals, fruit and veg for humans, for ticks this is their active time and you are their prey. When engorged they are roughly 10mm. I have never seen an engorged Deer Tick thankfully and take great effort to rescue bugs from the house and my dyepot many-a-time. I will admit and I'm not ashamed that after having pulled a Wood tick off my beloved dog I relished watching it shrivel and die over many many many days, cursing it for taking so much from my dog. It was one of the most disturbing things I've seen in a long time. And what is your opinion of me now? :) Well, I love my dog and I love my friends and family even more.
I have three very good friends that have contracted Lyme. Two of which were diagnosed late. Listening to how their lives have changed, how sick and debilitated they feel every day is just the worst feeling as a helpless bystander, all the while waiting along with them for the answers and updates. My friend in California was misdiagnosed for so long that she was being tested for neurological diseases like Parkinson's. And recently this summer my niece contracted Lyme's and fell ill with nausea and vomiting during a trip that took her states away. I've never seen her look so awful before. Also in this case, no evident bull's-eye rash to allude to Lyme. She was one of the lucky ones that knew someone that had the same symptoms around the same time and urged screening right away. But what if she hadn't had that advice? How long could this have been misdiagnosed?
WHERE ARE THEY
They're small. We've covered that, and it is possible to be bit and not know. The tell-tale signs of a bull's-eye rash will not always show. You can't count on that. And you can't pinpoint a specific region or environmental condition. Through most of the summer because I am in the grass and woods so often I wear long pants. If I know I am going in for long periods of time my typical garb is long shirts, long pants, high boots, neck scarf and hat. Though it may seem ridiculous the symptoms are just far too scary.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS
Early Signs and Symptoms
(3 to 30 days after tick bite)
- Fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes
- Erythema migrans (EM) rash:
- Occurs in approximately 70 to 80 percent of infected persons
- Begins at the site of a tick bite after a delay of 3 to 30 days (average is about 7 days)
- Expands gradually over a period of days reaching up to 12 inches or more (30 cm) across
- May feel warm to the touch but is rarely itchy or painful
- Sometimes clears as it enlarges, resulting in a target or “bull's-eye” appearance
- May appear on any area of the body
- See examples of EM rashes
Later Signs and Symptoms
(days to months after tick bite)
- Severe headaches and neck stiffness
- Additional EM rashes on other areas of the body
- Arthritis with severe joint pain and swelling, particularly the knees and other large joints.
- Facial or Bell's palsy (loss of muscle tone or droop on one or both sides of the face)
- Intermittent pain in tendons, muscles, joints, and bones
- Heart palpitations or an irregular heart beat (Lyme carditis)
- Episodes of dizziness or shortness of breath
- Inflammation of the brain and spinal cord
- Nerve pain
- Shooting pains, numbness, or tingling in the hands or feet
- Problems with short-term memory
HOW TO REMOVE
Use tweezers, get as close to your skin as possible, grasp and pull upwards in a straight motion. Twisting may break the mouth parts and you want to get the entire tick. Keep the tick for testing. Click here for a detailed look.
HOW TO PREVENT
Daily tick checks are the key to keeping up. The CDC has preventative suggestions even so far as landscaping, though in my opinion, I could have a spectacular bubble created for a yard there are too many variables for vermin and deer to enter. Pesticides are something I would love to see replaced completely with non-chemical alternatives and are ineffective unless repeatedly maintained. I also truly believe pesticides are causing more problems that we can even keep up with and that's not good enough for me. Good old-fashioned tick checks, tweezers, plastic bag and a trip to your doctor are the most realistic. And please, if you found this helpful pass this along or if you think I need to make amendments please share it with me. Until there's more funding it's kind of on us. And please consider donating for research.
HOW CAN YOU HELP