Note: This serious disease is easily curable if caught on time, but once the body is infected it can be hard to detect. I think it is very important that you be aware and take adequate precautions. The deer ticks are active in all seasons except the dead of winter when there is snow on the ground. - Dorothy
1. Tick talk.
The common wood tick or dog tick -- size of a small watermelon seed, reddish brown, white spotted legs-- latches on, fills up with your blood and when it has had enough, after three or four days, falls off if you haven't already detected it. The deer or black-legged tick on the other hand, is much smaller, the size of a pin head in early spring, growing to the size of an apple seed at maturity. The deer tick has black legs and a black head and the female sports a red abdomen.
2. Deer tick hangouts.
Deer ticks like to hide in long grasses and shrubs. They are most common in habitats familiar to deer, their preferred host.
3. Bad bites.
In the normal course of things a little tick bite is an unpleasant but basically harmless occurrence, although western wood ticks occasionally carry Rocky Mountain spotted fever. More worrisome is the deer tick, which can carry Lyme disease, a very nasty and serious infection that is hard to diagnose because its symptoms mimic so many other diseases.
4. The 24-hour rule.
In general, it takes about 24 hours for the Lyme-disease-causing bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, to travel from the gut of the tick to the salivary glands and into your body. However, like any "rule", this can vary. For example, squeezing or burning an attached deer tick can cause it to regurgitate its stomach contents into your veins and speed up the infection process. If you do find a deer tick attached to you, remove it by the head with needle-point tweezers. Pull it straight out - don't twist.
5. One out of four.
It is estimated that one out of four deer ticks are infected with Borrelia burgdorferi (an insidious bacteria that is a member of the spirochette family that causes syphilis). With the explosion of deer in populated areas, the tick is also becoming more prevalent and you should be on alert.
6. Symptoms of infection.
Many, but not all, infections are manifested by a bull's-eye rash which can occur within one to two weeks, but as long as a month, after a bite. For others less fortunate (or perhaps bitten on the scalp or some other hidden area), symptoms may occur as fever, headache, joint pains, numbness, tingling, tiredness, an unexplained rash. Other symptoms can be confusion or difficulty in understanding things, memory loss and reduced verbal fluency. Kids may exhibit behaviour changes, learning difficulties and headaches.
Rule number one is always to check for ticks immediately after being in long grass or bushes - check your scalp, groin and armpits. Remember, ticks climb up - they don't fly or drop out of the air. Put clothing into the dryer - ticks have been known to survive the washer - at a high heat. Rule number two is to wear long sleeves and pants, preferably tucked into socks. Products containing DEET are a good repellent. Clothing can be sprayed with products containing pyrethrums (it dissipates if used on skin).
8. Ticks and dogs.
If you have a dog in deer tick country, examine him frequently to avoid having the animal bring ticks into the house. They seem less prone to Lyme disease than people. Buy your pet a tick collar as well.
9. Lyme disease, the great imitator.
Why be so concerned about Lyme disease? Because it is so hard to diagnose and the longer you have it the more damage it does and the harder it is to cure. Left untreated, later disabling symptoms may involve the brain, nerves, eyes, joints and heart. It also becomes much harder to cure at later stages. It is often misdiagnosed as MS, arthritis or, even worse, schizophrenia or bi-polar disease. It can be successfully treated in early stages with a specific antibiotic.
Laboratory tests aren't all equally effective in diagnosing Lyme disease. If you have been to your doctor suspecting Lyme disease but the test have come back negative, though the symptoms persist and you believe you have been exposed, insist on additional tests. It is a tragedy that some people end up permanently disabled or dead because the disease was undetected in time.
Dorothy Dobbie Copyright© Pegasus Publications Inc