Thursday, February 07, 2008

Ticked Off

Moving to the Middle of Nowhere has provided me with a practical education in the realities of rural life. Topics covered in the course have included the difference between a cow and a bullock, the fact that moonlight casts shadows, and the bizarre calculus necessary to determine optimal driving routes.

I've also, unfortunately, learned more about ticks than anyone would want to know. Toby has picked up a fair few ticks, even though that Revolution stuff is supposed to keep him free of the freeloaders. De-ticking Toby has been my job, as I am the Dispatcher of Insects in our house. It's a job I don't usually mind doing, but ticks have an extra ick-factor that make even an iron-stomached bug crusher like me a little squeamish.

It's actually easier to get a tick out if the little fecker is already engorged. I always wondered what purpose ticks served - it seemed to me that their only purpose was to eat until they burst. But then I asked the Internet, who told me that an engorged tick will drop off, waddle or roll into some secret hiding place (like a crack in the baseboards), and lay a lot of eggs. The hard variety of tick can lay 10,000 eggs, while the soft variety lays a modest 50. The thought of 10,000 tick larvae is enough to give me serious nightmares. Never ask the Internet a question if you're not prepared to hear the answer.

I've been lucky in the tick department in that they'd all been on Toby and only one had been tough to get off. Sunday night, I was sitting at the kitchen table, working on my Fun Monday post, when I scratched the back of my knee. Something didn't feel quite right, so I pulled up my pajama bottoms and touched the mysterious growth. I knew from the way it sort of flinched that it was a tick. I also knew that even though it was probably physically possible for me to see it, there was no way I was going to have a look.

Usually, I have a strong stomach for gross medical things, even when they're happening to me. I've witnessed my own Upper GI test, seen stitches go into my skin, and watched a doctor take a scalpel to my infected toe. But the thought of seeing little black legs waving in the air while the head of a blood sucker disappeared under my skin, that's a medical bridge too far for me, I'm afraid.

I had to ask Peter for a diagnosis. His verdict: "Hmmm...looks like a nasty skin tag...but, oh, no, it has legs. Wow. That's really disgusting. It's really buried in there. At least it hasn't been there for long. It's not engorged at all."

Neither one of us was exactly sure what to do. I knew it was no longer recommended to burn it off, but I also knew from experience how difficult it would be to pull off a non-engorged tick. Google to the rescue!

Most of the US-based sites were focused on just getting the tick out as quickly as possible, so that it didn't have a chance to pass along any nasty bacteria or parasites. (Like ticks aren't gross enough on their own, they have to give you a value-add by potentially passing on disease-causing wee beasties.) Ireland is fortunate in the tick-borne illness department as we've neither Lyme disease nor Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever to worry about.

Using the instructions from the CDC, Peter prepared to remove the tick. We had a couple of false starts because the tick was small and we didn't have a proper tweezers. He eventually ended up using a Leatherman utility tool. The removal didn't go as smoothly as I'd hoped and the tick was both crushed and decapitated. (Or maybe it was de-body-ated, as it as more a case of the body being removed from the head than vice versa.)

As I washed with soap and warm water, then smeared the back of my leg with an alcohol-based hand gel, Peter searched for more information. I called Nurse Mom, who suggested trying to squeeze the leftover bit out. Peter found information from the VHI that recommended a removal process similar to splinter removal. I hate splinter removal and have lived with splinters for months rather than let someone poke around at them with a needle. (I have a strong stomach but a low threshold for pain.)

In the end, either the squeezing worked or my white blood cells had a little extra work to do Sunday night. I'm pleased to report that I'm alive and well, although I'm far too well-educated in ticks.


At 7 February 2008 at 19:12, Blogger Kaycie said...

I really HATE ticks. Ugh. I'm so sorry you had to deal with that.

It is nice you don't have to worry about bad germs, though.

At 7 February 2008 at 19:14, Anonymous Grannymar said...

I suggest you go to the GP or A&E Ann. The visible part of a tick is about 1/3 of it. You should not pull it out for the reason you discovered - it bursts.

The parasites can cause problems if transferred to the bloodstream.

Ask for professional help.

At 7 February 2008 at 21:12, Blogger Robyn Jones said...

I HATE TICKS....HATE. HATTTEEEEE....Last time my daughter picked some up (and by some I mean 30) some of them got off of her and into my house, even though I thought we had them. The next morning, I was on the can, and found one climbing up my leg....ughhh

At 8 February 2008 at 00:52, Blogger laurie said...

i got one on my nipple once. that was the worst.

i think you should write a book about lving in the middle of nowhere.

At 8 February 2008 at 02:25, Blogger The Rotten Correspondent said...

Yuck. My middle kid got one on his back playing soccer last fall. The same thing happened and I only got part of it out. (it was my first - and hopefully last - personal tick experience).

He got an infection that went systemic because part of it got left it. Not trying to be an alarmist, but keep and eye on it.

At 8 February 2008 at 02:27, Blogger The Rotten Correspondent said...

man, I can't type tonight.

part of it got left IN


keep AN eye on it


At 8 February 2008 at 04:06, Blogger Sweet Irene said...

We are so lucky, we live in town and although we take Jesker out for walks in nature, he has only had one tick ever and we managed to get the thing out properly. It was already engorged.

In California, I had a tick on my stomach once and got a little red ring around that area and had to take a batch of antibiotics immediately.

Keep an eye on that area and see if it looks different at all or have a doctor look at it, but if you don't have Lyme's disease, I wouldn't worry about it too much. We do have Lyme's disease in the Netherlands.

At 8 February 2008 at 06:34, Blogger ped crossing said...

Ticks are the worst. I have only had one and it was a mortifying experience. Not quite as bad as Laurie, but I was in early adolescence and it decided to land on my newly developing chest. And my dad had to help get it out. I am still traumatized.

And they are so gross. It is a legitimate reason to avoid nature. But there are many reasons to enjoy nature, so I still go out.

At 8 February 2008 at 08:56, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a better way to proper removing of ticks witout damage.
Check out


At 8 February 2008 at 09:21, Blogger Babaloo said...

Poor you. I don't particularly like them but don't think they're icky either.
Honey had one the other day, too. And I thought they were only active in summer! NEVER heard of ticks in winter. We've got one of these tick remover tweezers from the vet. Because the anti-tick collar for Honey didn't work at all. The day we put it on her last summer she had two ticks settled into her skin, right next to the collar. We took the collar off again. Because it also smells.
Gotta go and look up this revolution stuff.

At 8 February 2008 at 16:38, Anonymous swampy said...

First of all, thank you for my very special award. It is now proudly displayed on my side bar. I will give you full credit on a very future post. Right now, I'm in Seattle and not spending any time blogging.
Second of all, TICKS? AARRGGHH! We had plenty of those in Oklahoma but not so much now that I'm in Colorado.
Be careful of Lyme's Disease. Don't know what kind of ticks carry that, but it's nasty.

At 9 February 2008 at 03:20, Blogger Alison said...

Ewww...Ann..I completely feel for you. I have no problem taking ticks off my dogs, but taking them off me or my children is very difficult!! You are lucky you don't have to worry about diseases!!

At 9 February 2008 at 03:58, Blogger The Rotten Correspondent said...

award at my place...

At 9 February 2008 at 05:33, Blogger -Ann said...

Kaycie - I've come to the conclusion that they are my least favourite insect.

Grannymar - Thanks for the advice. I'm keeping an eye on my health and I'll go to the doctor if anything changes. I just don't know what they could really do for me now, you know?

RJ - Ewwww. I've only had to deal with 1 at a time. 30 plus visitors afterwards? Yuck.

Laurie - OK, you win the award for most disgusting tick story. As for the book, I don't really have an angle or theme. (Plus my life isn't that interesting - you guys hear about the best bits here.)

RC - I'll take that under advisement. I'm taking my temperature every day and being mindful of things and just hoping I'll get lucky. Thanks for the award!

SI - I think I would freak out if I saw a reaction to the bite site. Glad the antibiotics cleared it up for you.

PC - And you win the award for more mortifying tick experience.

Lasse - Thanks for the tip - it looks like a great little tool.

Babaloo - It's been a fairly mild winter, temperature-wise, which is probably why I picked up a tick. (Or, more likely, Toby picked it up and passed it on to me.) Flea and tick collars are huge wastes of money.

Swampy - You are most welcome. Enjoy Seattle!

Alison - I think I could take one off Peter more easily than I could have one taken off me.

At 9 February 2008 at 10:48, Blogger the mother of this lot said...

I came here from Roses's blog. I just saw 'ah sure, it'll be grand' on the header, knew I was in the land of my fathers and was hooked! Unfortunately, I have arrived at possibly the most disgusting post I have ever read, but not to worry, I'll call back later!

At 9 February 2008 at 12:22, Blogger -Ann said...

MOTL - Sorry about that, I am usually not so disgusting. Might I recommend from the archives September 2007? It's a fine vintage and I think it's aged well. :) Thanks for stopping by.

At 9 February 2008 at 16:12, Blogger Kaycie said...

There's an award for you over in my neck of the woods.

At 9 February 2008 at 19:35, Blogger -Ann said...

Kaycie - Thank you. It really must be my lucky day.

At 10 February 2008 at 02:28, Blogger laurie said...

award for you at my place.

no, no, don't thank me...

At 10 February 2008 at 04:53, Blogger -Ann said...

Laurie - But I must. And I did in the comments on your awards post. :)


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