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/