Songs, books and jingles are written about bugs – crickets, bees, ants, lightning bugs, June bugs, lady bugs, chiggers, ticks and spiders.
Bugs can be inspirational, and bugs can be depressingly dangerous.
2021 is the year for Brood X cicadas – billions of insects that have been feeding underground for the past 17 years and are now emerging in the eastern United States to the delight of birds, dogs and other bug-eating beings. Research is varied on the benefits and detriments of cicadas, but one thing is certain: they’re noisy critters, “clocking in at 96 decibels, drowning out the sound of passenger jets passing directly overhead,” per one source. Most researchers do agree, however, that cicadas pose no threat to humans.
The same cannot be said for ticks and chiggers. Chiggers, ticks and spiders aren’t bugs at all; instead, they’re arachnids – critters that have eight legs. In addition, in the northern hemisphere, these eight-legged critters are a force to be reckoned with; Prevention Magazine reports predictions of Summer 2021 being a “Tick Bomb.”
As we know, ticks are responsible for the transmission of Lyme disease, so it is especially important this summer to protect yourself against tick bites. A favorite pastime for many people in the summer is hiking, which is prime time for exposure to ticks. Ticks latch onto grass, litter, shrubs and other hosts close to the ground – they don’t jump – and as the hiker passes by and rubs up against the host, the ticks see new opportunity and move to the human body, whether it’s on the pants, socks, or open skin.
I remember one hike at Wallace State Park which resulted in my white socks looking like I’d splashed through a mud puddle. I hadn’t; instead, my socks were covered with scores of tiny deer ticks. I no longer have those socks – I went back to the car barelegged after throwing them away!
Preventive measures are the best protection against ticks. Most of the ticks I’ve found have been on my legs and feet. Wearing a long sleeved shirt and light-colored long pants tucked into white socks makes inspecting for the little buggers after the hike easier. Certainly, you don’t want to wear sandals. Staying to the center of trails is also an effective deterrent. Insect and tick repellants, particularly those with DEET and permethrin, can also be very effective, but problematic for those who are sensitive to such chemicals. It is very important to check your full body after a hike, working in the yard, or doing any other activity where ticks might be present. Equally important is changing and washing and drying the worn clothes upon returning home (most ticks cannot survive an hour in a hot dryer).
Checking for ticks and prompt removal of attached ticks
is probably the most important and effective method
of preventing infection!
What if you find a tick?
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A fully engorged tick stuck to my body is one of the nastiest things I’ve ever seen!
What do you do? Do you burn it off?
Twist it as you’re pulling it out?
What if it doesn’t all come out?!
Actually, my husband who grew up in the hills of Arkansas where he encountered many ticks taught me the correct way to remove the ugly critter from my body. And the Prince that he is, he did the hard work. He cleaned my tweezers with alcohol and then used them to grab hold of the tick as close to the skin surface as possible. Then he pulled the nasty creature straight upward with a firm tug. Gross!
Fortunately, the entire bug came out. That’s not always the case, but it’s also not necessarily cause for alarm. If the head doesn’t come out, you can carefully use a sterilized needle to remove it. Ideally, if you cannot remove the entire offender, it’s a good idea to have a healthcare provider finish the task.
Remember, not every tick carries infection. After removal, though, it is important to clean the bite with soap and water – and to watch for any reaction. It’s also a good idea to keep the tick in a container filled with rubbing alcohol (which ensures its demise) just in case you do have a reaction and the tick needs to be tested for infection.
Lyme disease can occur as a result of a tick bite. Per the Mayo Clinic, early signs and symptoms of Lyme disease include:
A small, red bump, similar to the bump of a mosquito bite, often appears at the site of a tick bite or tick removal and resolves over a few days. This normal occurrence doesn’t indicate Lyme disease.
However, these signs and symptoms can occur within a month after you’ve been infected:
- From three to 30 days after an infected tick bite, an expanding red area might appear that sometimes clears in the center, forming a bull’s-eye pattern. The rash (erythema migrans) expands slowly over days and can spread to 12 inches (30 centimeters) across. It’s typically not itchy or painful but might feel warm to the touch.
Erythema migrans is one of the hallmarks of Lyme disease, although not everyone with Lyme disease develops the rash. Some people develop this rash at more than one place on their bodies.
- Other symptoms. Fever, chills, fatigue, body aches, headache, neck stiffness and swollen lymph nodes can accompany the rash.
It is vitally important to get immediate treatment for infection from a tick bite. As stated in Lyme Disease Causes and Prognosis, most people with Lyme disease recover if given six weeks of antibiotics and if the disease is diagnosed immediately upon discovery of a tick or infected bite.
While research continues into treatment of Lyme disease, prevention is key. So, put on those long sleeved shirts, tuck your light-colored pants into your socks, and wear repellant if you can as you enjoy hiking and yard work this summer.
Who knows, maybe singing one of the songs or jingles might help? If nothing else, you might laugh – which is always good!