Not, not the comic book hero or the nervous twitch kind of tic – I’m talking about those gross, disgusting, horrendous little bugs that should be eradicated from this planet. The pictures of swollen ticks were just way too disturbing to post here, so I went with the 20th anniversary edition of the comic book. It is, in fact more attractive than a swollen tick. Google it if you don’t believe me.
What in the world could anyone get wrong about ticks? Why don’t you ask the producers of a TV show that will remain nameless that’s supposed to be set in The Hamptons in Long Island, New York and stars a handsome young man as a concierge doctor? The network it’s on is three letters and the initials of the show are R.P. Now, I know you’re wondering “Kat, what in the world were you doing watching a dumbed-down version of the medical drama House?” It wasn’t my fault. I saw the Saab convertible and I couldn’t move away.
There’s a spoiler here, so if you’re a fan of the show and you haven’t seen all the episodes, you probably don’t want to read this. Okay, so there’s this high school football player who is having dizzy spells and black-outs. They run a myriad of medical tests on him and can find nothing. At the end of the show, they discover a week earlier he’d fallen on the lawn and was down for a moment. The handsome doctor says “which side was down against the ground?” The kid points to his right ear. The doctor gets a pair of tweezers and pulls out a shiny black tick. WHAT?!?! No, I’m really not kidding.
First of all, the tick would have swollen up – filled itself up on the kid’s blood. It probably would have gotten stuck in his ear, causing him great pain. (Normally ticks feed on the blood and when they’re full, they drop off of their host.) A normal tick would have looked like a spit-out piece of chewed gum. A deer tick would have looked like a blood blister. Yick. Secondly – are you telling me that a house in The Hamptons doesn’t treat their immaculate lawn with insecticide? Just bogus.
Lyme disease, which is spread by “deer” ticks (also known as the blacklegged tick), has reached nearly epidemic levels in the USA. They claim you will see a bulls eye around the bite, but that’s not always the case. Lyme disease is very difficult to diagnose in some cases especially because the blood tests can yield false results. It’s an ugly infection, normally cured with tetracycline, doxycycline, or amoxycillin. And yes, those are the medications that will keep you out of the sun, and odds are you got Lyme disease during the summer.
How do I know so much about this? I had Lyme disease three years in a row when I lived on the Chesapeake Bay. It wasn’t fun. Trust me.
Lyme disease isn’t the only affliction caused by ticks. There are a bunch of other diseases they carry, and also can be difficult to detect. By the way, not all areas of the USA and Canada are prone to Lyme disease. That’s why I live here in Eastern Washington State. It’s a dry, hot climate – high desert – and we ain’t got no Lyme disease here – yet. Oh no, I just foiled your plans to use Lyme disease to slowly and painfully kill off a beautiful yet reclusive author living in the mountain wilderness in WA State? Well, no worries, there are a few authentic ways you can still do that.
Christmas Trees. Yes, believe it or not, Christmas trees are imported all over the United States (even the forested ones!) from states like Colorado, which do have ticks carrying not only Lyme disease, but also Colorado Tick Fever, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and a few others. (Ehrlichiosis is another ugly disease carried by ticks in certain areas.) A couple of years ago there was a story in the news about a coastal Alaskan town getting infested with tree frogs because of a shipment of Christmas trees from the continental U.S. which contained a ton of those hibernating frogs.
Transplants. Ah, the nice family from another state with a bunch of dogs and cats – loaded with ticks and fleas. Welcome to our state…NOT!
Migrating Birds. Yes, birds will host ticks. So will bunnies, deer, and pretty much any other animal with warm blood. Gross!
Ticks only have one known natural “enemy” – Guinea hens. No, I’m not kidding. Weird, huh?
There is a ton of information online about ticks and Lyme disease. If you’re going to write about them, make sure you do your research and get it right. After all, getting it wrong can be a royal pain.