The one thing my kids (and I) unanimously agree upon in regards to country life is that we do not like the ticks! The level of repulsion varies from a mildly irritated resignation to such a deep disgust that the only rational response to finding one embedded in your skin seems to be to run around in circles screaming at the top of your lungs “There’s a TICK on me! Get it off, get it off, get it off!!” Luckily, as the designated tick plucker, I fall into the first category and so, after tackling the screaming child and providing some comfort object for the victim to clutch during the operation, I remove the offending parasite. Ticks do not squish easily, at least not if you get them before they’ve gone into a feeding frenzy and ballooned up to the size of a pea on your blood, so we deposit them in the toilet or lock them into a jar of water where they drown.
Even with the nasty beastie vanquished one’s body retains the memory of those tiny feet crawling across one’s skin and PTS (phantom tick syndrome) strikes. You can’t avoid it. Immediately after finding and plucking the initial tick, your nerves tingle with a crawling sensation and you swear there are more ticks on you. PTS is worse if you find a tick crawling on you in the middle of the night and it is imperative that you turn on the light, peel back the covers and even strip off your PJs for a close examination if you ever expect to get back to sleep!
Ticks are not really that threatening being quite small, and their bite doesn’t even hurt (which is why, combined with their size, you tend not to notice them until it’s too late). They are not on the level of other dangerous animals such as bears or copperhead snakes or bulls in rut and yet they are far more disgusting and repulsive to us. They are very prevalent in this area and hard to avoid when you live in a house in the forest. The dogs, outside during the day, in at night, bring them in and even with the thorough pre-bed tick check doesn’t always manage to get all of them.
Ticks aren’t just repulsive – they can actually be dangerous due to the diseases they carry and spread. These include Lyme disease (on the rise in the U.S.), Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Tularemia, Ehrlichiosis and Babesiosis. Many of these diseases cause flu like symptoms including headache, fever, muscle aches, vomiting and a crater like depression at the bite site. Some diseases are worse than others and some are harder to effectively treat.
So I’ve been looking for ways to keep ticks away from us and the animals. The most obvious suggestion “Avoid tick season completely by staying away from outdoor areas where ticks thrive, usually during the months of April through September in the U.S.” isn’t really feasible! That leaves a combination of diligence and chemicals. “Wear light colored clothing so that ticks are easy to spot, and tuck your long pants into your socks” suggests one website. Long pants, socks? In the heat of an Indiana summer? Time to stock up on bugspray!