Over many years, being in the outdoors has been a huge part of my life. Until a few years ago, my experiences have been safe ones! Then a few years ago when on a midwest deer hunt, I had my first experience with a deer tick I found (BY ACCIDENT!) on my leg. The good part of this discovery was that it was not dug in and therefore, no harm done. Then in the first part of 2019, I saw what looked like bones in the woods above my home. Bones from what? I needed to take a look. It was around 35 degrees at the time so I figured I was safe from ticks. Then to get to that area, I used a machete to cut a path. The bones were from a deer and about 10 yards away from the carcass, I saw where a buck had been rubbing on small trees. Curious, I moved the leaves around that area and found a nice 4-point antler. Just what I needed to make my granddaughters another jewelry rack! I then picked it up and headed home about 100 yards away. That night I took a shower and all clothes worn that afternoon were put in the washer. Then the next day, I did what I usually do and that night as I got into the shower, I noticed a red mark on my right side. I called my wife to bring a magnifier and take a look at the small center black speck since I could only see some red. She did and then said all I see are small legs moving with the rest buried within. Not good!
She then used a medical instrument I had (sometimes being a doctor has its benefits) to dig it all out. She did it without squeezing the body or leaving the head buried within my skin, which is very important. Then during the shower I scrubbed it well with soap and then applied an antibiotic cream. The next day, that solid red area had expanded, yet did not look like that Lyme “bullseye target,” so I figured it was time to take the next step and professionally get it looked at to make sure all of the tick was out. It was and now to play it safe, I took the prescribed antibiotic which was the proper dose of Doxycycline. (Allergic to Doxycycline? No worries: There are others that are also recommended.) The next day the rash was gone and I felt good.
I became more concerned a few days later when I got my granddaughters on the school bus and stated to the parents to be careful concerning ticks. With that, I was amazed how many stated that one parent's house dog and another’s child had been treated for suspicious “tick attacks.” Then another mother stated she had Lyme disease and was now on IV antibiotics. This was from being only in her back yard where deer are rarely ever seen. What a wake-up! Now with spring turkey hunting approaching in my state of Pennsylvania as well as others, we're all going to need to take extra precautions.
Lyme disease is named after a town (Lyme, Connecticut). In the mid 1970’s, this is where it was first described and referred to as Lyme Arthritis. Yet in reality, this disorder has probably been around for a long time but was only recognized then due to advancements in medicine and research. Before then, symptoms were likely attributed to an array of common medical disorders or overlooked all together. That's still quite likely today, especially if you (like the parent I mentioned earlier who's on IV antibiotics), don't spend much time in the outdoors. Although back in the 1970’s Lyme was likely only a minor concern, this bacterial disease was not something most hunters thought about unless they were one of the unlucky ones. To combat this health threat, in 1998 there was a Lyme vaccine introduced of which my brother Matt, an M.D., had highly suggested my daughter and I take since we spend a lot of time in wooded areas. Then in 2002, this vaccine was discontinued, citing a lack of demand. Now it's 2019 and on looking back, I wonder if that was because few knew about the vaccine?
The Tick Attack: How a tick infected with the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi or simply referred to as B. burgdorferi starts the infection cycle is when it starts its dig into our skin. To complicate matters, what makes it difficult to find ticks on us is that the tick that carries Lyme is only around 2mm in size. As they're almost invisible, many folks simply never notice the presence of the tick before it falls off. After speaking with various turkey hunters as to Lyme concerns, word is getting out since all were taking precautions as to spraying clothes, themselves and looking harder at themselves after the hunt. When considering upcoming turkey hunting, these hunters sit concealed as he or she calls birds and the temperature is just right for ticks to be alert for a host to come by. To avoid a possible problem, even when it is cold out, do not let your guard down as I had done. For some practical information on where hot spots may be, bring up this topic with your neighbors, mention it to your doctor as to what they see in the area of which all such input is helpful.
Now that you know that temperature and length of time in the woods or high grass isn't necessarily indicative of your Lyme risk, it's time to protect yourself. Click here for Part II: Defeating Ticks & Lyme, Part 2