pluck and flush.

When I was in high school, I had a friend who was bitten by a tick. He told me a thrilling tale about trying to get the pest off by burning it with a lighter. He killed the tick and singed some leg hairs. Then he fretted about Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever for a week or two.

I didn't see what the fuss was about. When I was growing up, I was bitten by a fair share of ticks. That's what happens when you tromp around in the woods and play with outdoor pets - you get parasites. Whenever I found a tick on me, I would just pluck it off and flush it down the toilet. Then I would tell my mom, who would ask whether it had been attached. If I said no, she would respond "Good," and the matter was done. If I said yes, she would say "Hmm," and the matter was still pretty much over. I knew that ticks carried diseases, but I figured that they must be such rare occurrences that it wasn't a big worry. If my mother wasn't worried about her favorite child, then I wasn't worried either.

Ticks have made a resurgence in my life since we brought an animal into the house. They gave her a dose of Frontline at the shelter, but I've still found two ticks happily sucking away her mutty blood. I plucked them off and flushed them down the toilet. You know, as far as deaths go, being flushed down the toilet is probably one of the worst. You just have to hope you die before you get to the septic tank.

More concerning is that Josh has been the host of five ticks - three attached, two still looking for just the right spot. He found the first one slurping on his knee. After taking the appropriate measure of plucking and then flushing, he promptly freaked out.

I'll just let you in on a secret. Josh is a bit of a hypochondriac. Anytime he gets a little cough or a rash or a bump, he obsesses over it for days. I am less than patient when this happens. Maybe that's because he frequently finds some way to blame it on me. Somehow, I gave him Sealpox, even though I haven't been bitten by any seals, and I don't seem to be showing any of the symptoms.

So my general impatience with his hypochondria, in combination with my blase attitude about ticks, added up to me being not all that worried about a silly little tick bite. I've had dozens of tick bites - no, hundreds! Stop doing internet searches for Lyme disease and come snuggle. He eventually would come snuggle, but only after checking me for ticks. I am not even kidding about that.

After a couple of days, I happened to see his bite, probably while he was examining it for the eightieth time that hour. The scab had turned black, was a bit oozy, and there was a dark red blotch about an inch in diameter. I have never seen a tick bite look like that, and I've had hundreds - no, thousands! - of tick bites. Alright, now I understand your concern. It didn't look like the pictures of Lyme disease on the internet, but it sure looked like something bad.

The thing is, Josh continues to be without health insurance. As much as he would like to run to the doctor, he has to use the wait-and-see approach. It's amazing how many things just clear up on their own. Our strategy was to wait until the next week, and if it still looked gross, then he would go to the doctor. Despite having a clear plan of action, which always makes me feel better, he still looked at his leg with furrowed brow approximately twenty thousand times a day.

The following Monday, his tick bite continued to scare even the likes of a country girl like me, so he went to the CVS Minute Clinic. The lady there took one look at his leg and told him to take his Lyme diseased self down to Urgent Care. The doctor there said he wasn't sure what it was, but agreed with my assessment that it wasn't good and put him on some antibiotics. The doc told him that this stuff - doxycyline - kills pretty much everything except for MRSA. Of course, that offhand remark convinced Josh that he had MRSA. If he happened to also have anthrax or the bubonic plague, though, he's good to go now.

Here's a brief interlude to say nice things about the doctor at Urgent Care, whose name I do not know. He was apparently very understanding about the fact that Josh was without insurance. There is a blood test that they can do to check for Lyme, but the doctor opted not to do it. Even if Josh did have Lyme, the treatment would be the same - really dang strong antibiotics. The doctor also called the pharmacy and told them to charge the generic price ($10), rather than the full price ($40). Being without insurance often means being without treatment, but sometimes you've got a red and black oozing tick bite and you've got to suck it up and shell out the cash. It's nice that some doctors are willing to work with him.

After only a couple of days on the meds, the bite cleared up beautifully. And then Josh got a couple more bites, which he agonized over. But he still had twelve more days of antibiotics to take, so why worry? I am concerned about what we will do if this continues to happen. Anthrax or no, it's probably not good to be on antibiotics for an extended period of time.

The funny thing is that I haven't had a single tick on me. Either they are all hiding somewhere that is not visually accessible to me, or they're just not interested. It must be because I'm a country girl. They can tell it does no good to bite me, after thousands - no, millions! - have already tried.


Sandy Gaskins said...

I have recently been told that if you find a tick attached, you should put it in a freezer bag, labeled with date and where it bit you and freeze it. Then they (whoever "they" are) would be able to test the tick for whatever disease it has.

Carla said...

When he gets off the abx make sure he takes mega doses of Primal Defense. I signed up for it thru Subscribe and Save on Amazon. It's cheaper than vitacost that way.

The reason Mama was not worried about your tick bites is because you are NOT her favorite child. Sorry to inform you of this.

Sandra said...

Mom - Then once you have saved up a pound of ticks in the freezer, you can make a nice hearty broth.

Carla - I'll tell him, but I'm not sure he'll do it. He's funny about some things.

Anonymous said...

Um . . . .red, oozing and weird looking --- yeah, that is bad!

But you surely knew that I would think that. But yeah, don't bother with Lyme research much on the internet. It takes a long time to find the correct info and CDC is not the place.

The usual claim of a Lyme bulls-eye rash is inaccurate too. Sometimes, it looks like that, but really any kind of rash around a tickbite is a dead giveaway for Lyme or other tick co-infection. And a rash is actually a GOOD thing. It clued him in that something was wrong. Many, many times, there is no rash even when Lyme is present.

You and Josh may want to note ANY symptoms that he has up through the next year, particularly mysterious one that appear, worsen, disappear. No need to panic. Lyme is a slow killer (I need a smiley face here).

I am serious in that there is no need to panic. And the rash is a great thing because if it becomes a problem later, he knows where to look for answers. And he knows a crazy lady with a Rife machine. I have been doing great, health-wise, by the way.

That being said, we live in the middle of 15 wooded acres and I don't avoid the outdoors and the woods. I will not limit my life or the kids' life for fear of this. And I will not run take antibiotics every time one of us gets a tick bite (unless there is a rash like Josh's).

My plan is to remove tick (removal techniques are debatable among people in the KNOW about Lyme, so take your pick) and then cover the bite with activated charcoal (which is cheap and wonderfully useful to have on hand anyway) or maybe a type of clay, anything that will absorb and draw out toxins.

Hugs to Josh. He can call me if he wants to chat.


Sandra said...

Thanks for the info, particularly the tip about the activated charcoal.

Since the rash has gone away, he has been feeling less panicky about the whole thing. He's off the antibiotics now, and I think he's doing fine. We'll be on the lookout for any weird symptoms, though.

And yeah, we can't exactly avoid the outdoors. It surrounds us, and we like it that way.