A deer tick chowed-down on my sorry hide last April. It stopped for a snack or two on its way up to my hip where the damned thing excavated a hole and set up homestead. All this without me feeling a thing until I had three quarter dollar sized, extremely itchy lumps, from my hip to my waist. When the wife took a look at them, she described the 1st and 2nd as looking like bruises on big, hard lumps. At the third one she exclaimed “Oh my god! It’s a Tick!“. I assumed she meant a tick bite. Having no reason to figure she’d know what a tick bite might look like, I asked, “Why would you say that? “. ‘Cause I can see it’s butt and a coupla legs sticking out of the hole”. “What, you mean the damned thing’s still in there?” I asked in grossed-out horror.
“Ewww” she said.
“Ewww” I said.
The wife then offered to yank it out for me which I would’ve been OK with. However, she had to use a magnifying glass to see the tick in the first place, so I chose to reconsider. With the local clinic closed, we had no option but to head for the dreaded EMERGENCY WARD. Yeah, it was 3.5 hours before we made it out, but I didn’t really care. In fact, I kinda felt for the solitary doctor holding down the fort. I figured I might as well be patient and understanding, considering my situation was certainly no emergency. But in my defense, I sincerely thought they’d want to collect the tick and send it off for testing. However, it took the doctor twenty minutes, and an operating room’s worth of instruments to dig it out. By the time he was done, the tick was in eight pieces. So, he just gave me a prescription and sent me on my way.
That was my first tick encounter and hopefully, my last. I’ve done a lot of research and experimentation since that afternoon, and I’ve learned to practise several anti-tick procedures which kept both the Wife and I tick-free for the rest of last year’s tick season. I’m not trying to scare you with this. I just feel that, with over 60 trail reviews on this site, I have an obligation to share my findings with you.
Dressing for the trail:
If you’re wearing long pants, tuck them into your socks, and wear light colored clothing. Not that ticks care, it just makes it easier for you to see any that might get on you. Look closely, as they’re between the size of a pinhead and a sesame seed. The first thing a tick will do is start climbing upwards until it finds a nice secluded spot, to launch it’s attack. You won’t feel a thing as it chomps into your skin, and starts feeding. You have about twelve hours before it will infect you with Lyme disease, assuming it’s carrying it. A tick bite is not a guarantee that you’ll become infected, but it could.
However, I have zero tolerance for heat. I live in shorts pants and shirts from the last thaw to the first snow. Since the tick attack, I’ve been looking for alternatives to bare legs. I know it sounds unlikely, but those “zipper-legged shorts” are no longer the goofy looking things they used to be. Mark’s Work Wearhouse has a couple of different brands, and you’d be hard pressed to even notice the zippers anymore. With those, I can remove the bottom half of the legs when I’m on a clear trail, and just pocket them until the trail gets messy again. As well, I chose a pair made of “parachute material”. That’s what the Wife calls it anyway. They’re very light yet tough and they’re quite cool on the legs in the Summer heat. Keep your shirt tucked as well.
On the trail:
Avoid allowing the tips of any plants hanging over a trail, to touch you. Ticks will cling to the tips of plants at ankle height at the first stage of their Life, and about knee height at maturity, waiting for something to brush by.
Stay on the trail (which you should do anyway). Off trail, there are more chances of brushing plants with ticks on them. As well, ticks will also chase after any moving object which comes to a halt. Like the feet of a walker stepping off the trail to answer the call of nature, or taking a seat for a trail snack (that’s why you should tuck your shirt in too). So, anytime you stop walking or have to step off the trail, check yourself before setting off again.
Once done the walk:
I keep a brush in both of our vehicles which I use to brush myself down with, after a walk. Then a final good close look over before climbing into the vehicle. Once Home, another inspection before a nice cooling (or warming, depending on the season) shower.
There is some discussion concerning DEET’s effect (if any) on ticks, both pro and con. DEET only works on insects as long as you can smell it while it evaporates from your body heat. However, ticks aren’t insects, they’re arachnids (related to spiders). I figure, we all use DEET to repel insects anyway, so it’s gonna be present on us all Summer long. However, I got bitten in April, before mosquitoes were out and about.
There’s also a lot of discussion concerning the effect a chemical called permethrin has on ticks. Permethrin is a synthetic copy of a natural insect repellant (pyrethrin) derived from chrysanthemum flowers. Pyrethrin is a well-known and documented, yet unstable in sunlight, natural insecticide (which is why permethrin was developed from it). Permethrin is a “residual deterrent”. It’s sprayed onto surfaces, allowed to dry, and is reputed to remain effective on clothing through six launderings. Permethrin is NOT to be used directly on skin and is NOT even approved for use on clothing in Canada. Therefore, I can’t recommend you use permethrin on your clothes. Though “I know a guy” who used it last Summer after having a tick removed in April. He didn’t encounter another problem for the rest of the season. I have seen it in products at the recommended 0.5% concentration level at farm supply stores or Tack shops which carry horse accessories where it’s used for controlling flies around the animal’s eyes and sprayed on their legs to kill ticks. The insect, or arachnid, must touch the dried residue of the spray to die.
It can be sprayed on hiking shoes to prevent the first stage ticks from catching a ride while waiting for rodents. It can also be sprayed on clothes (allowing it to dry completely before wearing them) to kill adult ticks. It’s not like DEET, it’s not to be sprayed on your skin. You can purchase clothing from US distributors that has permethrin right in the fibres of the cloth (but I don’t think you can have it shipped across the border). They’re reputed to be good for many years of washing and wearing.
UPDATE – June 21, 2018 – Our contributor “Dee” (see comment below), has informed me that Mark’s Work Warehouse is now offering these clothes in Canada. Thanks Dee.
However, I’ll reiterate, the stuff is not approved for use on clothes in Canada, so I can’t recommend you use it in that manner. One very good reason is that it’s extremely toxic to aquatic lifeforms. Before this was common knowledge, many U.S. anglers were dumbfounded by their crappy (excuse the pun) luck while fishing. Particularly when they kept a spray bottle of permethrin in their tackle boxes.
To be thorough, I should point out that the Wife of “the guy I know” mentioned above, only had her shoes sprayed, but followed all the other procedures. She remained clear through the season as well.
Mankind’s best friend:
My kid sister has a border collie. I asked her what she did about ticks as her dog has incredibly long, thick fur. She told me that regardless of the medication she gives the dog, she still checks its ears, eyes, muzzle and such. She provided the following data as well:
My vet gives me Nexgard Chews for Lexi. It lasts for 6 months. One pill a month. The cost varies as to the weight/size of the dog. The price I paid when Lexi was 48.40 lbs was $135.45. Last year she stopped growing and weighed in at 58.20 lbs… cost me $209.40 for the flea/tick combo med
I looked up the website for it…included it here for you to read up on it.
THANKS to my Li’l Sis
*Should any of our readers have any info on the numerous “on-line” suppliers of this material at reduced prices, please leave a comment with your opinion*
If a tick does get past your defences … the tell-tale “bulls-eye” doesn’t always manifest itself. The wife took a close look at mine and saw no bulls-eye. Of course, there’s a possibility the tick that dined on me wasn’t infected with Lyme disease. However, professionals warn that the celebrated “bullseye” is not a reliable indicator of Lyme disease infection. So, don’t assume you’re fine because you don’t see one.
The only effective way to remove a deer tick is with a sharp pair of tweezers. Don’t try homeo-chemicals or old wives tales (suffocation with vaseline, disinfecting with alcohol etc, etc). The problem with these methods is that they’re not quick enough. The sooner you can remove it, the better. Get the damned thing off or out as soon as possible by grasping it as close to the head as you can with tweezers, and gently pulling straight back on it until it lets go. Squeezing the body could make it inject infected fluids so try to get it as close to the neck as you can.
Personally, I’d let a professional remove it if you can get to one quickly. Just keep in mind, it only takes 12 hours for an infected deer tick to infect you with Lyme disease after initially biting you. However, as mentioned earlier it might be awhile before you even notice you’ve been bitten. If you can remove it efficiently yourself, then do so. But I would save the tick until you contact your doctor for his/her decision on action.
The Final Take
So, you’ll need to decide which course of action to take.
You can wear long pants and tuck your pantlegs into your socks (regularly checking your light – colored pants for ticks crawling up your legs) and/or dodge any plants hanging over the trail. Some folk are concerned about looking like a dork with their pantlegs tucked into their socks. If you’re one of them, then I recommend the “parachute material” pants mentioned above, with extra long legs on them. These can be tucked into your socks and since the material is so light, you can allow the excess to hang over the socks so they look like regular pants.
If you choose to use permethrin, you’ll find the 0.5% concentration spray available in Tack shops and farm type stores (eg – TSC stores in Peterborough, Bowmanville, Oshawa or Lindsay) for use on livestock. Spray it on your shoes and pants until they’re totally soaked, then allow to dry completely. Do this outside the house, in a well ventilated area. Stay upwind when spraying. STAY AWAY FROM WATER if you’re wearing permethrin, as it’s extremely toxic to aquatic wildlife. It’s also highly toxic to cats, but not dogs (… go figure). I understand permethrin has been used by the Canadian military since the 1980’s but it’s still not permitted for the general public so I can’t endorse it’s use. However, since writing this piece, Mark’s Work Wearhouse has begun to stock permethrin treated pants and shirts. At $80.00 apiece (that’s $160.00 for the complete ensemble), it’s alot more than a 750 ml bottle of “Ultra Shield” with 0.5 % permethrin that’ll last you near 2 Summers for $30.00. As well, the shirts and pants have a liner to keep the permethrin permeated material from touching your skin. Great ! Just what I’d want in the dead of Summer heat. A lined shirt and pants ensemble.
Have a safe walk,