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.