An unwelcome guest in my tree stand

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Sitting on a squirrel-chewed cushion, back against a chubby oak tree, eyes half closed, and lost in wonderment about the stark beauty of the surround woodlot, I counted the minutes until I could start raiding my cache of snacks.

Deer season opened earlier in the morning, a mild start to an autumn day promising an even warmer afternoon.

Little did I realize that I was being hunted just as I watched and listened for any sign of a sneaky buck.

Pests

Indeed it didn’t take too long until I was aware that I was being targeted by a tiny and unwelcome woodlot critter. Not just one but small army of them.

You guessed it, the tick, or ticks, looked at me like a hungry hunter looks at a mid-day blue plate special.

I brushed a couple of the pests off and at the end of the day, picked another couple off that had found their way into clothing folds where they hid from detection.

I thought that was end of the story until two days later, when I felt a new bump under one arm. A tick that had gone undetected was deeply embedded clear to its butt in a spot that kept it out of my functional reach.

Bite

Thus, two hours later I was in a room at a local urgent care facility trying my best to explain to personnel that I needed their help because removing a burrowing tick by using a mirror and wearing trifocal eye glasses is way beyond by my skill level.

Eventually the critter was tugged from its head-first hideaway but only after several miscues, tool changes, and re-starts.

Now I’ll be on a heavy antibiotic for several weeks on the chance that the tick that tried so hard to grab a meal of blood would also be carrying the dreaded bacterial infection known as Lyme disease.

Lyme disease

Lyme disease comes from the bite of a tiny deer tick, just one of 80 identifiable types of ticks found in various areas in the nation. Just seven types are of concern as just that handful can infect humans.

It’s not just the bite of the tick that is the cause, or can be the cause of human infections. But a bite is just the beginning.

The closest I ever came to even attending medical school was at 35 miles per hour on Route 44 but I did some reading, something a tick bite can cause one to do.

It seems that to actually infect a human, a deer tick must first feast on its victim’s blood, an act that engorges the body of the tick itself.

The books suggest that the act of filing the tick’s belly, or whatever the technical word is, activates some latent substance which does the dirty work of transferring the bacteria that causes the infection.

The good news is that it apparently takes at least 36 hours of feeding to get the bad juices flowing.

Symptoms

First indication of a Lyme infection is often a rash at the site of the bite with the rash appearing like a bull’s eye ring.

Other common indicators can include fever and/or chills, muscle or joint pain, fatigue, irregular heartbeat, and odd sensations in the limbs. There are more but these are enough to get one’s attention.

If there is a chance that one may be infected a blood test can tell the tale but only after a few weeks have passed since the tick bite.

Lyme disease is no laughing matter. It’s serious and can be disabling. Early detection is key to a full recovery.

While actually being infected with Lyme disease is rare, it is a possibility and thus it is smart to be extra vigilant, especially with the exceptionally warm fall temperatures we have recently experienced.

Ticks like it warm and wet, exactly the conditions we have right now.

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Mike Tontimonia has been writing weekly columns and magazine features about the outdoors for over 25 years, a career that continues to hold the same excitement for him as it did at the beginning. Mike is a retired educator, a licensed auctioneer and marketing consultant. He lives in Ravenna, Ohio and enjoys spending time at his Carroll County cabin. Mike has hunted and fished in several states and Canada from the Carolinas to Alaska and from Idaho to Delaware. His readers have often commented that the stories about his adventures are about as close to being there as possible. He is past president of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio and a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Mike is also very involved in his community as a school board member and a Rotarian.

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