Bugs that Bite

Tick, photographed with microscope, approximately 6x magnification.

Photographed by Ernie Frank, the TAMU Department of Agricultural Communications.
Image Source:
Texas Agricultural Extension Service Slide collection

We should have a bumper crop of ticks this summer. When the winter is mild they seem to hatch out thicker than when we have a hard cold winter. I have a special feeling for ticks. They were a feature of my younger days. I spent several of my growing up years in the Rocky Mountain area. Up there ticks are not just a nuisance, they are a danger to your health. There is a disease called Rocky Mountain spotted tick fever that can kill you.

For many years, before antibiotics and vaccines, mothers in Wyoming, Montana and the other mountain areas would undress the children on a white sheet so they could see the ticks better. Many pioneer mother buried children from tick fever.

In the 1950’s when I went to Girl Scout Camp in Wyoming, we had to have three tick fever shots before camp started. Even at that, the counselors would check our heads and backs for us each night to be sure we didn’t miss any ticks.

You can be sure when I found ticks here in Central Texas and no shots for the crew, I got worried. The crew’s doctor assured me that the fever was not present in the Texas area. That was several years ago but it has surfaced in Texas now. A friend said recently that her husband was diagnosed as having tick fever and the doctor said he was lucky they caught it early. The way you catch it is to first be bitten by an infected tick. Then the tick has to stay on you for at least two days or more. Right there is one of the main reasons more cases are not seen. A tick that is still attached, hurts and itches and I can’t imagine anyone having one on that long.

Now there is a lot of controversy over how to treat a tick bite or how to get a tick off. Some folks get very sanitary about the situation. They get out sterile tweezers, rubbing alcohol and something hot. They try to get the tick to let go by heating his rear end. Then they grab on with the tweezers and pull. Then they coat the area with alcohol. Another group contends that the tick wound his head into the skin and has to be wound out. They use tweezers or fingers and twist the tick gently around until they head is loose. (My observation is that this usually leaves the head in the skin of the bitten person causing a sore.)

The crew removes them by pulling with their fingers unless the tick is a seed tick and they need the tweezers. Some ticks are dead when pulled off and some are still kicking. They cut the kicking ones in half so they aren’t around to bite someone else. Then they usually wash the area and hope for the best.

Have you ever noticed that as soon as someone in your group finds a tick, you can feel them crawling all over you? Never fails, I get one off the crew and end up checking myself and I may not have even been outside! Now the removal of the tick is not the end of the situation. Very often there is a sore that itches and need to be taken care of. Some put first aid cream, some just wash it or some use one of those cortisone creams. It you douse it with alcohol it will sting like crazy, but will be sterile.

That reminds me of a treatment for chigger bites, but that’s another story.

© Copyright 1986,1996, 2021 by Sulfur Creek Enterprises, Austin, Texas

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Pat Gibson

Pat Gibson

An emerging writer, an educator, a mom, a grandmother, and a great grandmother…