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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

The Tick Bite

I believe I will live.  After two days and three showers removed from the scene of the crime, namely an archaeological site deep in the mid-Atlantic woods, crawling with mosquitoes, snakes, black widow spiders, and ticks, I found a tick on my person.

How in the world it got there is anyone’s guess.  I was wearing long sleeves, high collar, widebrimmed canvas hat, long pants, tights and hiking boots.  I was liberally and repeatedly doused with Deep Woods Off.  Any predator within a five-mile range ran in the opposite direction.

And here I was, two days later, with a tick latched onto the back of my arm/shoulder, heading for the fold of my armpit, no doubt.  This is how I detected it, at last:

On Monday, we had a couple of family activities planned.  Coming and going, all of us were exhausted after a long weekend, and part of the week having been separated from each other.  By early evening, we decided to settle in with a movie and put on our pajamas.  As I was changing, I scratched the back of my arm.

Feeling a bump, I glanced in the mirror.  My little brown-spot mole seemed to be getting bigger.  Rather than a flat spot, it appeared somewhat round.  This concerned me as any fair-skinned person would monitor a growing freckle.  But I thought nothing of it and got dressed.

In my sleep-deprived state, I neglected to notice that it was my other arm that had the little brown-spot mole.  But when preparing for bed later that night, I wanted to scratch the spot again, and I took a closer look.

Aiiiyyyhhh!!!!  Black legs now radiated out on either side of the black bump.  This was a tick!  I felt like I was going to faint.

At my bedroom door, I called out to the kids, “Call Papa.  I need him right away!  And Petya, too.”

The kids sprang into action and my husband arrived with my oldest son.

“It’s a tick,” they announced solemnly.  We had both a dog and a friend with Lyme disease, so we knew this was no laughing matter.  The dog had a very mild case that we treated immediately.  The friend had a serious case that had been untreated for years.

“I know,” I replied.  “Can you get it OFF?”

I found my tweezers, and Benedetto started pulling on the tick.

“He’s latched on,” he shook his head.  “Maybe some nail polish remover will make him let go.”

A big cotton ball, soaked in the solution, eventually did the trick.  He started to loosen his hold.  My husband still felt that the tweezers were no good, so he ended up jabbing and pinching me, while basically ripping the tick limb-from-limb.  Petya supervised.



It was important for Petya to see what to do in case either of us had to help the other in some remote field camp.  I think this day he was learning what not to do.

Once the tick was removed, a large welt with a hole in the center remained.  Great.  We combed the internet for info about tick bites and Lyme disease.  It was not a pretty picture.

First of all, to remove a tick, I learned that one should NEVER use a match, nail polish remover, or any other irritant.  This would simply cause the tick to release its poisons like a syringe being pushed.  Wonderful.

Second, one should never rip or tug at the tick with the tweezers.  Rather than angled tweezers (which is what we used, of course), the proper tweezers for a tick are the needlenosed precision tweezers.  The goal is to lift the tick’s body from its mouth, off of the skin.  Right.

“Where’s the tick?” I ask, once the tugging and ripping ordeal is over.

“Shredded to smithereens,” comes the reply.

“We’re supposed to analyze if it’s a deer tick, or a dog tick,” I inform.  But judging from the photos, it’s a deer tick, the kind that would be prone to carry Lyme disease.

“The tick must be on the host for more than 36 hours,” I read, “in order to feed and release the disease into the body.”

I look at my watch.  It’s been about 48 hours.  I feel death flowing through my body.  Ah, the power of suggestion.

Maybe he was’t in place all that time, but roaming around, looking for a good place to burrow.  Generally, ticks are said to prefer the back of the knees, the groin, or the armpit.  He must have been heading for points north for all of two days.  Benedetto insists that he was not engorged with blood, therefore not feeding on moi.

Reading more carefully, it appears that the tick does not need to simply be present for more than 36 hours, but actively feeding for that long in order to start releasing the toxins.  That’s the first thing that sounded hopeful.

Some of the early symptoms include headache, body aches, and general exhaustion or tiredness.  That could be me on any given day-!

I look at the bite itself.  About the size of a dime, black dot in the center, similar to a spider bite.  Hurts upon occasion.

We will monitor it.  As long as it doesn’t morph into a spreading rash, I should be okay.  I’m going to be around for a long time to come, apparently.

The question is, should we confine our archaeological career to bright and sunny sites, or head back to the forested areas fraught with even greater dangers?



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6 Comments : Leave a Reply

  1. I hope you don’t get Lyme…it’s rampant up here in the Maine woods at the moment. My sister just got off the antibiotics for it. The antibiotics are no treat either as it turns out. And Jupiter pulled a tick from her hairline on the back of her neck last week; despite the shower she took the niight before. Fortunately she had the non Lyme disease tick.
    I vote for sticking to the desert digs. No trees, woods, or long grass.

    • avatar admin says:

      That’s what I think we might do, Wendy, just forget the deep woods. They say that over 20% of the ticks have the disease here. Why risk it? And it’s true, showers don’t do a thing….

  2. avatar Sybil says:

    Oh gosh, just one more thing to worry about. So sorry that happened. McKenna had a tick on her when she was very young. We got it off and called the Dr. who advised us to send it to some division of the Public Health Dep’t. Eventually we got a report back that all was okay. I don’t recall how they were able to tell us that. But, they were right and she had no health issues from it. I hope the same for you.

    • avatar admin says:

      I think if the tick is black it’s the deer tick, but if it’s brownish, it’s the dog tick. The deer tick can carry Lyme, but any tick has the possibility of transmitting this or that. Thanks for the well-wishes, I believe I’ll be fine. I just keep thinking if it were my son-!

  3. avatar Winnie says:

    Maybe wash down with flea and tick shampoo? Ha!

    Honestly don’t get too freaked out, do all you do and change out of your woods clothes asap. Hubby once had a favorite fishing hole he’d sneak back into and EVERYTIME he’d come back with literally hundreds of little ticks crawling on him. He’d strip outdoors – probably giving the little old ladies across the road a thrill and come in and go straight to the shower and then I’d check his back.

    You might look into coating your shoes in some permitherin (sp?) look in hunting stuff for it, you don’t put it on your skin but on your clothes. I’ve also been told that if you tuck your pants legs into your socks (a fashionable look I know) it helps. I’ve heard tales of people wearing flea and tick collars on their ankles too as that’s supposed to help with chiggers as well. We are outdoorsy folk and after a day of being in likely tick country I look over the kids well while they are bathing and Hubby and I will check each other. Hey it could get romantic http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OctrGD4JW8U

    • avatar admin says:

      There you go! Thanks for all of the romantic and fashionable tick-prevention ideas, Winnie. I do think that this was part of the problem, we had to jump in the car and drive 7 hours. I had some of my drinking water left, so we both washed our arms, necks, faces, just to get all of the bug spray off. Talk about feeling miserable. Plus, I wore black jeans, and now I read that lighter colors are better (obviously) for spotting any…. I’m learning a lot!

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