...and on the eighth day God created the horse in perfect image, to romp, graze, gallop, play, and make manure wherever it darn well pleases, in divine grace.
Folks, prepare yourselves, I thought I would try a little science fiction this week, or have a little Halloween in June, except that it’s not.
They’re creepy-crawly, gross and frightening.
They’re here, and they could be aliens or worse, perhaps something from Roald Dahl's Tales of the Supernatural, death may be involved, and their numbers are increasing.
It can all begin silently, without any indication of their presence or unusual incident at all.
The innocent humans who want to go horseback riding and camping, they and their dogs and horses spend the week roughing it out in the wilds of nature, riding during the day and cooking and hanging out by the campfire every night.
The beautiful days spent in the breeze and sun, and the lovely nights under the stars and moon bring us back to Mother Earth as we connect with the planet, and our horse buddies and friends.
But lurking in the woods at the edges of fields, or hiding in tall grass, or shady, damp leaves are some of the most creepy, disgusting creatures crawling on the face of the planet.
Sporting eight legs and equipped with hungry, blood-thirsty mandibles, these aren’t vampire-spiders gone wild, but they do grow and grow, and the more they eat, the bigger and more disgusting they become.
And their populations are increasing.
Once bitten, human skin becomes red and distorted, with weird, crusty patches of growing infection.
The creatures spring onto a pant leg or shoe, or even the dock of the horse’s tail, hitching a ride home with you, feeling the cozy warmth of a living host, carrying disease and death...
Blah! Is it alien vampires, spewing blood and pus everywhere?!
No, it’s the Tick-Pocalypse!!and the accompanying disease, Lyme-a-geddon!
And it’s happening all around you.
Deer ticks, found on the east coast, New England, the mid-Atlantic states and the upper midwest,
and the Western Blacklegged tick, found in the Pacific, coastal western states are not something out of a science fiction novel.
They are alive and they are hungry for you and your pets.
While ticks and even Lyme Disease have been around for years, changes are taking place.
Ticks have experienced a population explosion in the last two years, due to a series of events in the ecosystem of oak trees. (1)
There was an over-abundance of acorns on oak trees in 2015, and since mice eat acorns, they also had a population explosion. And since deer ticks feed on mice, they, too, experienced a population explosion.
And with the over population of ticks, who aren’t picky about who they hop on to in order to feast, you and your pets are at greater risk of encountering them, when you are out horseback riding or romping in the woods and fields.
This has spread outward in apocalyptic measures. (2)
Even before a tick hops on to you, some 35% of them are already infected with the Lyme Disease bacteria.
The CDC is indicating that 20% more people are infected with the disease now than five years ago, and some 300,000 new people are infected with it every year. (3)
The bacteria stay in the tick’s gut, but when the tick attaches to a host, the bacteria travel up into the salivary glands, and are transmitted from there to the host, via the blood stream.
If an infected tick attaches to you, symptoms will appear within 30 days, usually starting with a rash or large, weird, red patches and other red spots on the skin.
Up to 70% of people who have been bitten by a tick never feel it or know it. (4)
The bite area will become very noticeable in appearance. Tangerine or orange-sized, it has definite uniform borders, appearing as a large, red target with bulls-eye, a circular shape with red border that grows and grows, a solid red oval, or a large, red area that has a crusty center that grows and grows, even a bluish-purple area, like a bruise with a definitive border, or scattered red, patchy spots, clustered in the same area. (5)
Flu-like symptoms, a low-grade fever with chills, and fatigue and aches can develop within/ or up to the 30 day time period.
Left unchecked, symptoms spread to the nervous system and heart over the following weeks, and can cause serious problems such as meningitis, knee- joint arthritis, heart rhythm distortions, and facial paralysis. Some of this can progress to death. (6)
Due to climate changes and mild winters, it is now a year-round Tick-a-palooza, so pay attention if you are in hay fields, meadows, woods or shady, leafy areas.
Ticks start out being very tiny in size. The Larvae are only about the size of a grain of salt.
They hatch out from July through September, and they only have six legs. They can be found crawling around in damp leaves and will hop on to a mouse to feed.
The Larvae do not carry Lyme Disease at this stage of their development. (7)
The next stage is the Nymph or juvenile, and they are also very tiny, only about the size of a poppy seed.
They come out in the Spring and Summer, lurking on the edge of woods, among the damp leaves.
By now they have eight legs and are also harboring Lyme Disease.
Since they are so tiny, no one notices them, and it is during this stage of development that the tick is particularly dangerous. (8)
They silently and painlessly attach themselves to you, your dog or another host, and spread bacteria and germs before anyone detects them.
In the autumn, the Nymphs develop their sexual gender as they morph into adults.
The adult tick is about the size of a sesame seed, before it feasts on the living host. (9)
The fully mature adult female tick carries Lyme Disease.
The male tick will hop on to a host, but apparently doesn’t feed. However, they are carriers of the Lyme bacteria, but don’t actually spread the disease.
All ticks sport a “Scutum,” a sort of shield -looking feature behind the head.
While Deer and Western Blacklegged ticks carry Lyme disease, other tick species carry and spread other types of diseases.
Tick species have different body colors, along with different colored “Scutum” shields.
Some are red with yellow Scutums, some are brown with darker Scutums, some are reddish-orange, with barely distinguishable Scutums, some are blackish with a reddish-colored Scutum.
The Rocky Mountain tick spreads three diseases, one of which is Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, a rare sickness causing headache, fever, and a pink, non-itchy rash that spreads over the entire body, along with deadly neurological disorders and bleeding. (10)
The Rocky Mountain species also spreads Colorado Tick Fever, which causes fever and flu-like symptoms, but cannot be treated with anti-biotics, since it is a virus. Victims may have to be hospitalized, with IV fluids and pain medications.
The Rocky Mountain tick also spreads Tularemia, which causes fever, swelling in the lymph nodes, along with weeping, open skin sores, and life-threatening breathing problems. (11)
The American Dog tick also spreads Tularemia and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and they are very likely to bite humans, as well as dogs.
The Brown Dog tick causes Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, but they primarily feed on dogs, so a flea and tick preventative/killer medicine applied to the back of the neck is strongly recommended. (12)
The Lone Star tick causes something called STARI, or Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness.
Symptoms include the large, circle-shaped, red rash, fatigue, fever and headache.
These symptoms are very similar to Lyme Disease. (13)
The Lone Star tick also spreads Tularemia.
Anti-biotics are given to patients infected with all of these disease, except for Colorado Tick Fever.
Prevention is the best method of staying free of these disgusting parasites.
Check your pet by rubbing your hands over their body, and through their fur, especially in the neck, back, head, ear and face areas, to feel for unusual lumps that were never there before.
Using Deet products, such as Off! , with 20 to 30% Deet, can mask your human and your pet’s scents, if you spray it on skin and clothing, or your pet’s back and legs, prior to romping in fields and forests.
Pregnant women and children can use Deet products, and it will keep ticks away, but it doesn’t kill them. (14)
Check the product label for information on usage by pregnant women and children, and also look for EPA numbers, which indicates that the company has provided the EPA with information regarding the product, along with its efficiency at repelling ticks.
Spritzing Deet products or Off! on boots, clothing, skin, and pets can throw off the scent, and prevent ticks from jumping on to you and them.
A Permethrin product, such as Farnam’s Bronco, Repelex, or other fly sprays with Permethrin can be sprayed on the animals’ back, and you can rub it on their face with your hand; do not spray the animal’s face with aerosol.
There is also something called Sawyer Permethrin Premium Clothing Insect Repellent, at a cost of $15 from Amazon.com, that you spray on clothing once a month. (15)
Spritzing your clothing, boots, shoes, and pet with Permethrin products can deter and kill ticks.
When you come home from the fields or woods, immediately throw clothes into the washing machine in HOT water, with detergent. Cold or warm water doesn’t kill ticks.
Tumble dry all outdoor clothing on HOT setting in the dryer, for at least 60 minutes.
Anything not washed should be tumble-dried for at least 20- 30 minutes on HOT setting, to fry any potential hitch hikers. (16)
If you, or your pet, are bitten by a tick, get some pointy, fine-tipped tweezers.
Grab the attached tick as close to its ugly head as you can, and, pull directly upward with steady, even pressure. This may take some time.
Twisting can break its head off, and can leave mandibles inside the skin. If mouth parts are left behind, disinfect with rubbing alcohol.
Disinfect anyway - -the whole area, and your hands, if not using latex surgical gloves.
If an animal is wiggly or won’t sit still, I always use Hydrogen Peroxide, and pour it right on the tick. If the tick is embedded near the pet’s mouth or eyes, get someone to help hold a towel or paper napkins over the eyes or mouth, to prevent the Peroxide from entering.
Do this once or twice, and then apply Vicks Vapor Rub, liberally all over the offending tick.
The Hydrogen Peroxide kills the tick, as does the Vicks, since the salve prevents it from breathing. (17)
Check the progress, and repeat daily, until the tick is dead.
Dropping live ticks into a clear jar of rubbing alcohol will kill them, and you can admire their ugliness for posterity’s sake.
Told you it was gross.
Where there’s one, there may be more.
Use a full-length mirror to examine your whole body, and a hand-held mirror to check head, armpits, behind your legs and knees, between your butt cheeks, and other private areas.
If you find an attached tick, stay calm; it takes about 36 hours for it to attach, feed, and transfer harmful bacteria, such as Lyme.
Check to see what development stage it is in, such as Larva, Nymph, Adult, and also check to see whether it is male or female.
Remember the “Scutum” shield? It is different on males than on females.
You can even take a picture of the darned thing and upload it to the website of the University of Rhode Island at www.TickSpotters.org (18)
This can help identify the species of tick, and what you may be at risk for.
The University of Massachusetts has their TickReport , and for $50, you can attach the (dead) tick to an index card with clear tape, seal it up in a plastic sandwich bag, and mail it to them.
They will test the tick and send you an email report, noting any types of bacteria or viruses, in about 3 days time. (19)
If you receive bad news, head straight for your family doctor, as soon as possible.
Sometimes symptoms don’t appear until 30 days later, and whether you know you were bitten, or if you are completely unaware, if you have a large, weird, red rash of any sort on your body, get to the doctor, ASAP.
A blood test can check for the disease, and your doctor can examine your skin.
Sometimes there are “false negatives,” meaning, you test clean of Lyme Disease.
Go get another opinion and re-test, especially if you feel ill with fever, chills, aches, and fatigue.
If you discover an embedded tick on your body, if it has been there anytime after 1 ½ days, you are at risk of contracting Lyme Disease.
The body size of the parasite can be a guideline for about how long it’s been attached.
The fully engorged, adult female tick is one of the most disgusting sites you will ever encounter.
They appear as large, gray, raisins or small marbles, which are black or gray in color, with their tiny, pin-head inside the skin.
Gross and dangerous, it is especially bad if you find them laying engorged on your laundry room floor. (!!)
Always check, confirm, remove, and monitor the situation, with you, your family or your pets.
If diagnosed with full-blown Lyme Disease, the doctor will prescribe a round of anti-biotics.
Most people fully recover, if the disease is caught in time and anti-biotics are taken.
Some 20% of people will continue to have lingering symptoms, such as muscle aches, joint pain, and fatigue, for up to 6 months or even longer. (20)
This condition of persistent symptoms of Lyme Disease is called “Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome,” or PTLDS.
Other medications and behavioral therapies may then be prescribed by the doctor.
Folks, you don’t want these disgusting buggers attaching to you, your family, or your pets.
If you contract Lyme Disease, you may be in for the hassle of your life. - To next page
It is once again an once of prevention that in this case, is worth a ton of cure.
Off! and other Deet products can literally be a life saver, do not be shy about spraying your boots and clothing, and applying it your pets’ bodies, too.
Wearing heavy boots with pants tucked inside them, sprayed with Off! can keep ticks from climbing silently up your leg.
Always apply Deet products outdoors, fumes can make you nauseous.
Check pets’ bodies, frequently.
And if you are in a hurry upon your return from romping, toss all clothing into the drier, set it on HOT for 30 minutes, and fry the little Mother Suckers up.
I have met people who contracted Lyme Disease, and it has been a horrible experience for them
One young girl missed out on her whole teenage years, no friends, no cheerleading, no Prom.
Take the time to spray with Off!, and check, check, check every inch of bodies and get those clothes in the washer or drier; the clothes hamper won’t cut it, since living ticks can lurk and hop.
Pass this article on to friends and family, it could save a world of hurt, maybe even someone’s life.
Getting out-of-doors is always recommended, and may your happy trails always be tick- free, but caution is issued, year round.
“Grossly Embedded” are the words for the week, as I leave you to ponder the niceties of Mother Nature’s insidious, creepy, and disgusting side, to the immortal words of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, “Happy Trails to You.”
1-16, 18-20: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, TickEncounter, Womens’ Health Magazine, pgs.72-77, internet
17: Old farmers’ wives’ remedies