Since the middle of April I have found a total of seven of these nasty little ticks on me. I get them working out in the orchards, where the deer go, although they do not look like deer ticks to me. They are about the same size as an adult deer tick, but do not have the abdominal band of that species. I believe it is a dog tick. Luckily, none have attached so far. Every night I do a tick check, searching all my body for the critters.
Most of the ticks I’ve found have been felt as they crawl up my arm, or one, up the middle of my back. Ticks tend to climb to the highest point on a body to look for a place to attach. I feel them most often on my neck. Since the beginning of tick season, I’ve learned not to ignore any little tickle that might be tiny insect feet. Sometimes it feels like my skin is crawling even when there are no ticks around. Just thinking about it makes me twitch!
Lyme disease is a serious problem here in Maine. Many dogs are stricken with the bacterial infection, as are horses and, far too often, humans. There is a fairly new tick borne disease called Relapsing Fever that is also caused by a bacteria. I’m pretty certain I got that three years ago.
First, I found two tiny nymph ticks, one attached to the back of each of my knees. They were the size of poppy seeds. Soon after, I suffered from high fevers, nausea, bad headaches, general weakness and malaise and overwhelming fatigue in bouts that recurred every few months. I had no idea what was wrong with me for over a year. Luckily, I finally read about Relapsing Fever and got a course of doxycycline antibiotics. It has now been fourteen months and the illness has not returned.
Ticks also carry anaplasmosis, a Lyme-like bacterial infection affecting dogs and humans, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. While I worked as a vet tech, I saw dogs so sick with Lyme that they were unable to move. The acute symptoms make dog joints so painful the animal gives up, refuses to stand and won’t eat. The effects of antibiotic treatment are amazing. After just a few days, the dog is feeling better, active and eating again. Dogs need a month-long course of doxycycline to clear Lyme infection. Sometimes it takes more than one course. Untreated Lyme can even kill by causing kidney failure. Doxycycline is our best defense against this crippling illness. I shudder to think what would happen if the Lyme bacteria develop resistance to doxycycline.