30 Jun What to Do When A Tick Bites

One morning last week, I spent an hour burning tiny ticks from my body. I believe I picked them up at Dinosaur Park in Arkansas. I’m not familiar with this subtle variety. No larger than a small freckle, they were most likely deer tick. Since it’s summer and you very likely will pick up a tick, let me offer my best advice on getting them off your body.

Ticks are hitchhikers, as you know. They latch onto your socks or pant leg, then hike up to a suitable feeding spot. They may climb around for two days before committing to a bite. The tiny ones I’ve met here did that. Main thing to remember: any time you walk through a grassy or wooded area, check for ticks. Jill and I once stopped at an historic site just off the road; the grass was only up to our ankles but when we returned to the car, we found our socks dotted with ticks. Problem is, deer populations are at an all time high and so deer are crowding into our suburbs, bringing lots of ticks.

If you find a tick has embedded itself into your skin, do not freak out. Above all, do not attempt to tweeze it out. A tick’s mandibles are like a locked vise. Sure, you can yank out the tick but it’s head or pincers will remain embedded. Often this will cause an infection and you’ll end up squeezing/cutting it out. Heat is the only way to extricate a tick. When I was a kid, we’d use a just-extinguished match applied to the tick’s body. That usually did the trick.

But you have to be careful; otherwise, you’ll kill the tick as it’s still embedded in your skin. My preferred method is to heat the ends of tweezers then clamp down on the tick where it meets my skin. Yes, it burns. Yes, it’s especially touchy if (as in this case) the ticks have found their way to more delicate parts of your body. Deer ticks seem to like the groin. It will take several tries. Be patient. Soon enough, the tick will back out of its bite — too hot here! Once the tick is out, you can burn it. Some people like to flush them down the toilet. I don’t know that ticks drown. They’re hard to crush too. You have to give them some evolutionary credit for hardiness.

Since mine were deer tick, I called my doctor to talk about treatment for Lime disease. About 50% of deer tick carry this bacteria, which is related to the same bacteria that causes siphillis and causes related symptoms, like memory loss, even dementia. You don’t want to mess with Lime disease. I didn’t have any symptoms but then some people don’t show symptoms. The only way to know is to get two tests done. Well, I don’t have time for that. And I’m not going to take a gamble. So I told my doctor to send me a prescription. He agreed: “The treatment is benign, a course of antibiotics.” So I’ll be taking an antibiotic for a couple of weeks.

Antibiotics — as the name makes clear — kill all biotics, all living things, in your body. That includes the most helpful bacteria in your intestines. This is why you’re not supposed to eat dairy products when taking anitbiotics because your body can’t digest dairy products very well, and digestion becomes problematic without those helpful bacteria. As soon as you’re off your meds, you’ll want to re-introduce those by taking big doses of acidophillis.