Governor Dick is prime tick territory. Especially during the late spring and early summer (May/June/July) but all warm season too, the little buggers delight in finding their way to lunch (you) from brush and loose leaves. For the most part they are but an annoyance, but nearly everyone nowadays has heard even if only peripherally of Lyme Disease.
This is one of a number of nasty bacterial diseases (Ehrlichiosis is the other most serious) borne by a proportion of 'deer ticks'. These are very small, much smaller than the common 'dog tick'. The adjacent picture gives an idea of their relative sizes. These very ticks were picked off one or other of my family members.
Attitudes to these tick-borne diseases vary from denial ("vastly overblown problem") to the neurotic. The reality is that these tick-borne diseases are real, a proportion of deer ticks do carry them, and a proportion of those that bite you may go undiscovered long enough to infect you.
The trick of course is not to get bitten in the first place. When traipsing through Governor Dick, wear light-coloured clothing; wear long pants with the ends tucked into socks (no points for style, but that's hardly the point is it?); long-sleeved shirt, tucked into the pants. If you are not averse to the use of dangerous chemicals, 'Deet' products (such as 'Cutter') applied to exposed skin or extremities of clothing goes a long way to deterring ticks. The light colour is to make spotting the ticks easier; the tucking in is to prevent their easy access to the soft warm flesh they love.
It is vital that after a stroll in the park, you inspect yourself and others thoroughly - especially children, who tend to roam off the trails more than adults - for ticks. If you're lucky, they will not have attached and can just brush them off. Look particularly at arms, legs,behind ears, the hairline, and groin. But basically they'll dig in anywhere. It is wise to ritualize "Tick Check!".
Removing them once they've got their heads buried in your skin (yes, ugh!) can with the bigger dog-ticks just be a matter of pulling them straight out. But ideally, and certainly with deer ticks which are too small to succesfully remove by hand, it is best to use tweezers. It is important to not squash the tick since this will squeeze its bacteria into you. Don't aggravate it ahead of removal by poking it, scratching it or using chemicals such as alchohol (in a well-meaning effort to 'sterilize' it); use tweezers to pull the body (and its head) straight out of the skin. Swab the skin with alchohol immediately afterwards, and disinfect the tweezers. It is important not to leave the head in.
Opinions vary, but it seems that a tick has to be attached for a number of hours, some say a day, before infection is likely. Initially after 'settling in' the tick sucks blood from you into itself; later it regurgitates the blood and bacteria back into you. Provided it is nailed before that later phase, things should be OK.
The much-heralded 'bullseye rash' apparently occurs in fewer than a third of victims; basically ANY rash or bizarre symptoms within a week or two after a bite are cause for suspicion. Initial symptoms can include what seems like an attack of 'flu within the same time-frame. The fact that the initial symptoms are so prosaic and ordinary is what has kept Lyme under- or mis-diagnosed for so long. The good news is that early treatment is as simple as a brutal regimen of antibiotics; the bad news is that left untreated Lyme can cause a wide range of debilitating illnesses and immune-system related problems. Lyme, and in particular Ehrlichiosis, can be fatal. Later treatment is protracted, and to a large extent 'damage control'.
Small Print, Copout and Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, and none of this is intended as medical advice to supplant that from the medical community, which locally nowadays mostly has a realistic and firm handle on Lyme. This springs solely from the fact that I and members of my family have contracted it. Trust me, it is a real concern.
© Friends Of Governor Dick, 2002,3