Pest Ticks Her Off During Walk

CDC offers facts about Lyme disease.

As late November temperatures soar to the 50s and 60s, Mother Nature gives us this gift, but she extracts her price: ticks.

The calendar tells us to prepare for winter. The milder temperatures tell us to be wary of ticks. Any time the thermometer climbs above freezing, a tick can climb onto your pet, onto you, or onto you from your pet. Experience taught me to be more cautious.

On a warm Sunday in November, my husband and I explored the Beaver Brook Trail behind the Sharon train station parking lot. I wore a leather jacket with a scarf and my husband was comfortable in his long sleeve polo shirt. We took our dog and meandered along the brook, over the footbridge, and down the light dappled path that rose to a lovely elevated clearing.

When we returned home, we found six ticks on our dog.

We congratulated ourselves on our prudent choice of a white dog. Ticks stand out on him like jimmies on vanilla ice cream. My husband removed the ticks with tweezers, wielding them with the skill of a swashbuckler's sword. I fell in love with him all over again with each facile pluck of those leggy critters that scare the bejesus out of me.   

We searched each other thoroughly for hitchhiking varmints. We were clean. The next morning, while I showered, I felt something on my shoulder. Blurry eyed and nearsighted without my glasses, I let my intuition and my terror inform me. I screamed for my husband.

Sure enough, a tick was clutching my shoulder.

Out came my husband's tweezers and a scalpel he keeps for such emergencies. I nearly swooned from fright and his gallantry. In a one-minute minor surgery, he removed the tick and the last leg particle holding fast to my flesh.    

The small wound has faded, but my preoccupation with Lyme disease has not. 

Immediately upon finding the tick, my muscles and joints ached. I felt feverish. Did I have Lyme disease or was this a case similar to my freshman year of college when I experienced every symptom of every major psychiatric illness described in my Psychology 101 textbook?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers these facts about Lyme disease:

  • Lyme disease is spread by the blacklegged tick. The immature nymphs, most active during the spring and summer months, are so tiny they often go undetected. Adult ticks are larger, easier to find on the body, and are more active in the cooler months.
  • In most cases, an infected tick must be attached to the skin for 24 to 36 hours in order to transmit Lyme disease.
  • Symptoms appear within 3 to 30 days. They include a red, expanding rash, and fatigue, chills, fever, headache, muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes. 
  • Lyme disease can be cured with antibiotics in the early stages and symptoms of the disease are treatable in the later stages. Post-Lyme disease syndrome is extremely rare.
  • Wooded and bushy areas, and those with high grasses and leaf litter present the highest risk for contact with ticks.
  • Domestic animals, such as dogs and cats, can be infected with Lyme disease and may develop arthritis as a result. These pets cannot directly spread the disease, but can bring ticks into your home and yard.
  • Ticks can hide inside your clothes and crawl on to your skin when you come indoors. Tumble dry clothes at high temperatures after possible exposure.  

Since my tick bite, I am on the lookout for a bull’s eye type rash characteristic of Lyme disease. The tick was attached to me for less than 24 hours. It is unlikely I contracted Lyme disease even if the tick was a carrier. It is likely I’ll be more neurotic than usual until a month has passed.


A seasonable weather cool down is predicted for the next week. If Mother Nature presents us with a future gift of warmer temperatures, beware of ticks when you’re out for a spring in December walk in the woods.     


For more information on Lyme disease check out: http://www.cdc.gov/lyme/      


Kurt Buermann November 30, 2011 at 02:19 PM
Elissa-- Thanks for this important article! Your tick was easily spotted. A tick in hard to see/reach areas can be detected by a persistent itch. If you suspect you have taken aboard ticks, I recommend a hot shower with a strong soap. A strong dandruff shampoo seems to work best. When removing a tick do not use Vaseline or a hot object on you or on pets. The tick's reaction will be to "regurgitate" into the spot. Use fine pointed tweezers and grab the tick at the mouth, not the body.Post surgery, a dab of antibiotic ointment, rubbed in ,is a good idea Yes, and do watch for the "bullseye rash.' If at all in doubt, an early visit to a clinic and antibiotics will most likely head off any long term Lyme infection. --Kurt Buermann President, Sharon Friends of Conservation
Lymespouse November 30, 2011 at 05:15 PM
"Post-Lyme disease syndrome is extremely rare." This is BS, on two fronts: 1. Many Lyme Literate doctors (LLMD) have identified ACTUAL Lyme Infection... NOT "post-lyme syndrome." If you have "post-lyme syndrome" symptoms, chances are YOU HAVE A LYME or other co-infection. Ignore the tests, and start treatment with whatever LLMD you can find. 2. It's not rare. Not at all. Important to note, also, that for some people the primary symptoms (rash, flu-like illness) never present. Those folks have it worst of all, because there's no indication at all that they were even bitten, and Lyme ends up the last thing on the list to try and treat. Lastly... THERE ARE NO ACCURATE TESTS for Lyme. And the "magic 21 days" of antibiotics do not always kill the bacteria that cause this horrendous disease. Do NOT let the CDC or IDSA tell you otherwise. Action must be based on clinical evidence. See ILADS.ORG for the real facts... and sites like www.lymenet.org or www.lymespouse.org if you are a caregiver and need information on what your loved one is going through... or if you suspect a loved one has Lyme and may not even know it. Most articles about Lyme are only half the story -- Lyme and related tick-borne illnesses is a growing problem and the CDC and IDSA are to blame for not taking it seriously and supporting those doctors that are actually helping patience, outside of their lame "protocol." Be informed!
Lymespouse November 30, 2011 at 05:16 PM
Jackie Chados November 30, 2011 at 05:24 PM
There is a great gadget called Tick Twister that removes ticks easily from pets & people. I used to use tweezers but found this gadget easier and quicker. Jackie
Brian J. Greenwood November 30, 2011 at 05:30 PM
Ellissa, unfortunately the classic red bulls-eye only shows up in a small percentage of cases. Many people who have Lyme never get it or see it. Having had Lyme Disease 3 times I can tell you I never got the rash. I would suggest you bring it to the attention of your PCP asap. Sometimes a high dose of antibiotic is prescribed within the first 24 hours. Another approach is to get a blood test in 30 days as the antibodies for the disease will be present then if you have it. It is also suggested when you are in a wooded area to check yourself for up to 3 days afterwards as the ticks are to small to see and they do not always attach immediately. Finally I disagree with the strong soap and would suggest a loofah. Put your clothes in the dryer for 30 minutes, that is the only thing that will kill the ticks. A shower or washing machine will not.
Elissa C. Rosenthal November 30, 2011 at 07:31 PM
You're welcome, Kurt. We tend to think ticks are a summer or spring phenomenon, but they are definitely still in season. I've heard about the tick removal methods you described that are "suburban myth" and don't work. Tweezers do the trick with ticks. Thanks for elaborating on the technique and for adding helpful information to the subject.
Elissa C. Rosenthal November 30, 2011 at 07:50 PM
Lymespouse, I sought information from the CDC because I assumed it was an valid source. The tone of their website is quite serious and focused on detection, treatment, as well as prevention. When researching any disease, it is good to consult many different perspectives and sources. Thank you for sharing your experience and for your cautionary tale about recognizing the symptoms and treating Lyme disease.
Elissa C. Rosenthal November 30, 2011 at 07:59 PM
Thanks for your advice, born of your unfortunate personal experience with Lyme disease. The rash is not a certainty according to experts, as you say. I know I was lucky to have spotted the tick and removed it, but the tiny nymphs would be easily missed.
Elissa C. Rosenthal November 30, 2011 at 08:04 PM
Jackie, the device sounds nifty for me to use, when my husband is not around with his trusty tweezers. If you know where to get a "Tick Twister", please share it with our readers.
Kurt Buermann November 30, 2011 at 10:05 PM
Sorry I was unclear. A hot shower with strong soap will not remove an attached tick but it will sure make any prospective tenants scurry. Nor should you wait for a bullseye rash before seeking medicaol attention. You may not have a rash. But-- if you feel off, or have flu-like symptoms not too long after an exposure opportunity, you should head for the clinic.
Richard Pollack December 01, 2011 at 12:48 PM
All very good advice. Readers should be aware that finding and promptly removing ticks (from a person or pet) can dramatically reduce risk of infection. Once the tick has been removed, have it identified. Only certain kinds of ticks can transmit the agents of Lyme disease, babesiosis and ehrlichiosis. Other ticks may transmit other infections. The longer the tick is attached, the greater the risk of infection. Physical samples can be sent, or digital images uploaded, for a rapid, confidential, independent and expert evaluation. For more educational information and help with identification, visit https://identify.us.com. Richard Pollack, PhD (IdentifyUS LLC)
Becky Lee (Rebecca Michelle Lee) February 02, 2012 at 08:17 PM
Dr. Pollack is a paid employee of the identify.us[dot]com company. Please seek advice from a qualified Lyme Disease Specialist, (http://lymediseaseassociation.org). It doesn't matter the type of tick, it's just that not all ticks bite humans. So if a tick is able to bite a human it has/can carry Lyme Disease. Please also see the international organization http://ilads.org The reason the diagnosis is so delayed for all Lyme patients, (myself included,) is that the Dr's who write the guidelines on how to diagnose & treat Lyme Disease own lucrative patents, and receive huge grants from big Pharm to say Lyme is no big deal, (example: Yale Lyme Dep't). Please watch the documentary 'Under our Skin" http://underourskin.com to see why Dr's wouldn't touch Lyme with a 10' pole.
Becky Lee (Rebecca Michelle Lee) February 02, 2012 at 08:20 PM
Yes, so sorry Elissa... Sounds like you need to watch the documentary 'Under our Skin' http://underourskin.com :: The CDC is the WORST place to get Lyme info... the documentary explains why.
Becky Lee (Rebecca Michelle Lee) February 02, 2012 at 08:20 PM
Only 50% of people get the 'rash' No rash for me, I grew up covered in ticks. The CDC is a horrible place to get Lyme info, (yes unfortunately,) please read anything by Columbia University Lyme Dep't, http://lymediseaseassociation.org, http://ilads.org, & http://underourskin.com
Richard Pollack February 02, 2012 at 08:35 PM
Becky Lee: You might want to check a few of your facts. I actually am the President and Chief Scientific Officer of IdentifyUS LLC. I am also a public health entomologist affiliated with the Harvard School of Public Health and Boston University, and have taught about and conducted research on ticks for several decades. Next, you are misinformed regarding your belief that the kind of tick doesn't matter. The agent of Lyme disease is transmitted by the deer tick. Dog ticks, Lone Star ticks and many others may also bite people, but they do not transmit this particular infection. IdentifyUS LLC evaluates ticks and other arthropods. We neither diagnose nor recommend treatment; those are the responsibility of your physician. The minor cost of tick evaluation is the same regardless of the kind of tick, and we have no financial stake, whatsoever, in the answer. We receive NO funds from physicians, pharma (big or small) or other competing interests. I hope this helps clarifies your misconceptions. -Richard Pollack
Becky Lee (Rebecca Michelle Lee) February 04, 2012 at 06:40 PM
Are you saying you work for free? I am pretty sure the position of "President and Chief Scientific Officer of IdentifyUS LLC" is a paid position. It's people like you who are quick to dismiss evidence that you didn't discover yourself. It's people like you that impede proper treatment, and diagnosis. It doesn't matter if you do not directly diagnose anyone yourself... You leave the same rubbish on every tick/lyme article all over the entire internet! Copy & paste, copy & paste leading people to your employer which receives payment for testing ticks. Yale & Harvard are the worst for Lyme information, lol. Yeah I check my facts... With Columbia University and none other.
Michael Gelbwasser (Editor) February 04, 2012 at 08:57 PM
OK ... Time to get back on topic, folks.


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