My lovely little Ruby got bit by a tick last week. Her sister was the first to notice it and brought it to my attention. I removed it successfully with my handy dandy tick remover that I purchased at the vet’s last summer. Removing ticks properly is essential. They dig their mouth into the host’s skin. If you simply pull a tick out, their body will dislocate from their head. The head will remain in the skin, and and release their bacteria into the host. The trick is to hook their neck with the remover, and twist as you pull to dislodge the head. If you don’t have a store bought tick remover, you can Macguyver a similar tool with a paperclip. Either visit your vet or have your office supplies well stocked.
As most of you know, ticks can carry Lyme disease. Infected ticks release Lyme disease causing bacteria when they bite their host. The first sign of Lyme disease is a bull eye rash that occurs at the bite site. This rash can appear 3-30 days after the initial bite but only to 70-80% of infected people. Early symptoms are fever, headache, joint pain, and fatigue. If left untreated, Lyme disease has a myriad of painful symptoms including arthritis, meningitis, and encephalitis.
After I removed Ruby’s tick, I swore I would keep a sharp eye on the wound. By the next morning, like most fantastic mothers, I had all but forgotten about the tick. It didn’t occur to me to check her bite until yesterday, a full seven days after tick contact. I was worried when I saw the rash. I promptly cancelled our bike ride, packed a lunch, and headed to the emergency ward. She is currently on antibiotics, and at home with a fever. We have been advised to meet with our family doctor before the end of Ruby’s two week round of antibiotics to decide whether she needs to have the full Lyme disease treatment.
Ticks are about the size of a poppy seed. They stand on the end of a blade of grass with their hands in the air to find a host. They are able to sense heat and a change in light as you or your dog passes them by. A common myth is that they are only found in long grass. Ticks do not differentiate based on grass height. They are prevalent during the spring and fall seasons. They do not like very hot or very cold conditions. They are a super bug that does not die but simply hibernates when the weather does not suit them. In the hot days of summer, it is still cool enough in wooded areas for ticks to be active all summer long.
Ticks were mostly thought to reside in only rural wooded areas. They are now finding ticks blossoming in urban areas. One theory is that they have been brought to the city on family dogs and cats returning from cottages and camping. In the past, ticks have fed mostly on deer and were prevalent only in areas with high deer populations. Researchers now know that ticks frequently feed on birds and rodents and will travel where their host takes them.
To protect my family, I was told to have my children wear long pants tucked into their socks during the spring and fall season. I almost choked on the word socks while I struggled to maintain my composure. As soon as it hits 12 degrees Celcius, my kids are in their bathing suits spraying each other with the hose. My goodness, we are Canadian, gosh darn it! Who wears socks once the sun shines past 7pm?
So what to do? Until it gets really hot, I make my kids wear sneakers and socks, and I spray them with DEET from the knee down. I’m not of fan of using DEET on my children, but I’m less of a fan of Lyme disease. We have also started daily tick checks. My kids are old enough to bath and dress themselves so I don’t see them naked as much as I use to when they were little. Now we check for ticks before they put their pajamas on.
I am worried about my little one whom I adore. After a long wait in the emergency ward, Ruby told me very matter of factly that she would like to change her name to Glitter Avery Vortex. If she beats this whole Lyme disease thing, I may have to reward her with a permanent name change.
Be strong my Glitter Girl!