Blood-sucking and disgusting ticks

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This is number seven in a series about dangerous and irritating Eastern Washington Critters.

Today we continue our discussion about irritating critters in Eastern Washington. This information is gathered from Fish and Wildlife and other Internet sources, along with my observations and experiences.

A few years ago, while camping at Potholes State Park, I hiked to a nearby stream, which was about 100 yards away through 50 yards of sagebrush. My objective was to fish the stream where it emptied into Potholes.

The idea was to catch lots of fish, but the scheme didn’t pan out as it did in my mind when starting the walk toward the stream. Two hours later, back at the travel trailer, the fishing gear was stored properly and I entered the trailer.

“What’s on your back?” Garnet said.

It was a tick and with every layer of clothing removed, more ticks became apparent. A total of 20 of these critters were detected. Garnet was appalled and horrified and disgusted all at the same time.

Me? Each tick was picked off my body, crushed between paper towels and placed in the fire pit. No big deal. Still one was missed, as a strange sensation was detected in the middle of the night.

A flashlight was illuminated and there on my chest was a tick beginning to burrow into my skin. It was immediately grasped between thumb and forefinger, pulled from my skin and crushed. Garnet was never notified of this lingering bug.

These irritating and potentially dangerous critters are found throughout Washington State.

They are blood sucking parasites which feed on blood and they can transmit diseases to humans. These are sneaky pests which wait on vegetation and transfer from the bushes to the people and animals who pass nearby.

Ticks then crawl around looking for a good feeding site and dig or burrow into the skin of the host. Their body will expand with the amount of blood taken from the host.

Dennis note: The amount of information presented thus far is most likely enough to make some people throw up. After all, who wants to think about some bug drinking your blood. However, any outdoor-minded person must be aware of the possibility of ticks in their outdoor adventures. Read on.

Precaution is the answer to avoiding ticks. Limiting exposed skin is one protective avenue, but who wants to hike in 80-degree weather wearing long pants? Plus, my experience has the pesky critters hiding in clothing, until layer upon layer is removed and bare skin exposed. Then they attach to bare skin.

Heavy use of insect repellent is my way to avoid ticks. Even so, my entire body is inspected after passing through tick country, usually during a shower.

What should you do when finding a tick embedded in your skin? There are many folk remedies, such as covering the hind end with petroleum jelly, touching the rear end with a hot match and simply pulling the critter out of the skin.

The proper procedure is to grabbing the tick as close to the skin as possible with a tweezer and pulling upward, no twisting involved. Remove the head with tweezers if it remains in the skin. Next wash the spot and your hands.

The first sign of Lyme disease, usually, is a circular rash often described as a bull’s-eye appearance at the tick site. Also, headache, muscle aches, fever and joint pain may occur. See your doctor at this point.

Few if any Lyme disease cases are reported per year in Washington. There is only one tick, the Western black-legged tick, which passes Lyme disease in our state. This tick is found in Western Washington.

Another disease is tick-borne relapsing or recurrent fever. Symptoms include periods of fever lasting for two to seven days, disappearing for about four to 14 days, and then reoccurring. One to 12 cases of tick-borne relapsing fever are reported each year in Washington.

Rocky Mountain spotted fever include symptoms of fever, nausea, vomiting, muscle pain, lack of appetite, and severe headache. A rash may appear. Abdominal pain, joint pain, and diarrhea can also occur. Each year, zero to three cases of Rocky Mountain spotted fever are identified in Washington.

A more terrifying tick disease is tick paralysis. The condition is illustrated by a paralysis usually starting in the legs with muscle weakness, loss of coordination, numbness, and difficulty standing or walking. The indicators move upward to the abdomen, back and chest.

When not treated, if the tick is not removed, paralysis of the chest muscles can lead to respiratory failure and death within 24 to 48 hours after symptoms begin. Prompt removal of the tick usually leads to a complete recovery. Twelve cases of tick paralysis have been reported in Washington between 1990 through 2011.

OK, so ticks are nasty creatures and we don’t want them anywhere near our bodies. But we don’t want to stay inside and ignore the beautiful outdoors. Prepare before heading out and be aware if a tick is found on or embedded in our skin.

Next week: More info about dangerous and irritating Eastern Washington Critters.

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