Aaaahhhh, summer is here and in full swing! Tis the season for outdoor BBQs, hiking in the woods, swimming at local lakes and beaches and simply enjoying the beautiful weather outside. There’s nothing that could possibly ruin my love for the great outdoors with fresh air in my lungs and world at my fingertips. That is, until I found a tick on me…
My husband recently moved into a new home, and one of my favorite parts of living in the town we chose, is that I can walk out my door and be on hiking trails and mountain biking trails. The previous owners of our house unfortunately did not take care of the lawn or yard the way it was designed to be. In fact, I don’t even think they raked, like ever. So this spring and summer has required a lot of extra raking, weeding and cleaning up. Last Thursday, on the fourth of July, I woke up excited to celebrate our country’s birthday and enjoy the day off with my husband. I got up, had breakfast and immediately went out to water the sunflowers I planted a couple of months ago. Watering my flowers turned into almost two hours of yard work. It was already a scorcher of a day, even bright and early in the morning. So it was hot, humid and downright steamy. I was outside in old crappy flip-flops, a t-shirt and a pair of shorts. Probably not the best attire to be doing yard work in, but what can I say, I wasn’t planning on being out there for so long, but didn’t care because working hard and sweating. After I finished, I immediately went inside had a cold glass of water, stripped down and got in the shower. I was literally filthy and covered in dirt and grime. I scrubbed myself really well and did a quick check to make sure I didn’t have anything crawling on me and thought all looked good.
Let’s fast forward about 24 hours or so, when I was in the bathroom and noticed a teeny, tiny small black dot on my inner upper thigh. I thought to myself, “What the hell is that? A scab?” and I started picking at it. After about four or five picks and pulls I got it off and immediately realized it was a tick. “Holy sh*t!” I literally screamed, put the tick on a tissue and called my dad. How the hell did it get there?! I scrubbed the day before, and I mean SCRUBBED! Was it on my clothes that I wore that I had just thrown in the wash a few hours ago? Was is on my flip-flops that I wore while I ran out to do a few errands? How long was it there? OMG…do I have lyme disease?! Yes, I went pretty panicked crazy. My dad told me to relax, assured me that he’s pulled ticks off himself before and to make sure I save it and take pictures of where it bit me and of the tick itself. So, I did. But the damn thing was SO small that I had to zoom all the way in and crop the photo which btw, provided a much clearer and creepier picture of what it really looked like. The mysterious black dot on my leg was officially deemed as a nasty disease infested and blood sucking bug.
I did a little research, OK, let’s be honest I did A LOT of research online, and read up making sure I cleaned the area properly. I also identified the tick as being a nymphal deer tick, and later got it examined by a company who confirmed I did my homework right. The same company looked the at pictures of my bite mark and the tick and told me there was no way the tick was on me or feeding for two or more days and that I should be in the clear of any tick borne diseases. I also spoke with my doctor’s office who told me after I described the situation that they felt because if it wasn’t even fully engorged or embedded in my skin that I was safe. Has that calmed my nerves and fears? No, not really. I’m still worried and am still checking to make sure I don’t get the infamous bullseye rash (about 25% of people who get lyme disease don’t get the rash at all) or any other wacky symptoms that come with lyme disease and other diseases ticks carry. But more to the fact, I’ve been worried everyday that I missed a tick somewhere. On my head or another part of my body that I can’t see. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my husband scan me from head to toe more than once, but I cannot even describe to anyone just how small this tick was. When I showed my husband my saved specimen, which was still alive until it finally suffocated in the plastic bag I shoved it in, he said, “Omg THAT is the tick?! I had NO idea they were that small!” Nope, neither did I honey, neither did I. In fact, I honestly always assumed that if I had a tick on me, I’d easily see it and /or feel it on me. But this was soooooo not the case. It was the polar opposite. I feel lucky that I even found the blood sucking bastard when I did, which was hopefully in time before it gave me anything nasty. My comparison to the size of this tick was like the head of a pin, a poppy-seed or even a spec of dirt. Which oddly enough, after doing research, I learned is exactly how they describe these ticks. And the nymphal ticks are the most common to pass diseases because they go unnoticed due to their size.
To say that I’ve been worried, grossed out and bothered by this nasty tick would be an understatement. I’ve been a little obsessed over it, and sadly, almost afraid to go back outside. In fact, I’m strongly considering getting our acre of land sprayed for ticks; which should greatly decrease their population. I decided I wanted to write a blog because while I know most people are well aware of ticks and their nasty diseases, I learned from this experience that most people don’t realize just how small a deer ticks are. During the spring and summer is when the younger ticks are in their prime. Fall is when you’ll likely see an adult tick which are apparently easier to spot and see. I can’t stress enough the importance of really checking yourself and your family if you’ve been outside or in the woods.
Don’t underestimate just how small they are, and more importantly, don’t get ticked off like I did!
Some quick deer tick facts:
Deer ticks are the only ticks known to cause lyme disease.
Deer ticks are also known as the black legged tick.
Ticks go through three stages of life, larva, nymph, and adult.
Two other tick born illnesses other than lyme include Anaplasmosis and Babesiosis
Ticks are parasites that require blood meals to transition through their different developmental stages.
The deer tick is found most commonly found in grassy areas, open fields, woods and especially the margin where fields meet wooded areas.