And a tick visited my house
Last week I found a tick on the dog. Finally, a non-COVID-19 topic to discuss.
In Ohio, tickborne infections happen year-round; the first peak starts in June. We have a dozen different types. Three – the deer tick, the American dog tick, and the lone star tick – transmit human infections.
I’ll focus on the infamous deer tick, which causes Lyme disease among other infections. You’re doing great if you know the basics about the tick and the rash.
Young deer ticks are tiny, tiny, tiny – the size of a poppy seed. Easily missed, if you don’t deliberately look for them.
And the places you should look might surprise you. Ticks can’t jump. They wait on grass blades and contact your skin or clothing directly. Once they get on you, they crawl and settle in warm areas like your groin, armpit, back of leg, belly button; on children, hair, scalp, behind the ears.
The unique thing about Lyme disease transmission: It takes forever. First, the tick crawls and takes hours to a day to settle down and begin feeding; then it takes another two to four days to transmit the bacteria.
Why so long? Lyme disease bacteria sleep in the tick’s gut. Warm blood meals wake them up. They multiply, meander to the salivary (spit) glands, and are regurgitated into the wound as spit.
Finding ticks greatly reduce your chance of getting Lyme disease.
What if you miss the tick? Remember the rash.
The classic rash looks like a bull’s eye. But it can look like a bruise, a ring. Typically, it starts about a week after the bite and lasts for weeks, giving you ample time to ponder the weird rash on your child’s face or behind your leg.
How do you know it’s not poison ivy or a mosquito bite? Lyme’s rash usually doesn’t itch or hurt. It expands like pancake dough on a griddle, reaching over 8 inches in diameter.
The Ohio Department of Health does not recommend tick testing. Because Ohio is not considered a highly endemic area for Lyme disease, in the absence of any symptoms (rash, fever, etc.) preventative antibiotics are not recommended.
As for the dog tick I found, I disposed it following four safe and simple steps.
Step 1: Scream. (Sorry, just something visceral about accidentally touching a swollen, free-flapping, blood-sucking exoskeleton.)
Step 2: Put reading glasses on. (Before you look high and low, check the top of your head.)
Step 3: Take a tweezer (anything that works; since the kids came home early from college, nothing is where it’s supposed to be) – and grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible.
Important: Pull the tick out in one motion. Don’t squeeze, jiggle, burn, nail polish/ Vaseline-suffocate the tick hoping it’ll unlatch of its own free will. Like an angry, desperate politician, the tick might regurgitate more crap into the wound.
Step 4: Dispose of the tick.
Tell your son, whose restless, shelter-in-place energy and creative ideas are more annoying than the tick, that he can “study” the tick, but in a sealed container only. Or flush it down the toilet.
Best way to avoid tickborne diseases: Avoid ticks. I trust DEET, developed for and tested by one of the world’s finest health research institutions – the U.S. Army.
Stay safe out there.