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Archive for Sunday, July 6, 2008

Road trip souvenir leaves tourist ticked off

July 6, 2008

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With bare feet - sans DEET - shoved into red Crocs (will I never learn?), I stood in thick grass at Gettysburg and worried about chiggers while listening to our guide speak of the Civil War battle of Culp's Hill. It was a long battle - three days - and, while husband Ray assures me that the guide didn't talk THAT long, I'm pretty sure he didn't leave out many details.

Perhaps Pennsylvania doesn't host those insects because I didn't get any chigger bites, but a couple of days later I was afflicted with an itch on my foot so excruciating that I abraded my skin scratching it. Somewhere in Indiana on our way home, I found the cause of the itch: a TICK ... burrowed between my goes-to-market piggy and my stays-home piggy. Lest you think I lack good hygiene habits, I ask you: Do you inspect between your toes when you shower? I thought not.

"Eeeyew!" I said to Ray. "It's a tick!"

"No, it isn't," he said while taking a close look. "It doesn't have legs."

Once the tick was removed and I looked at it under a magnifying glass, I found one leg near the front of its body; I can only conclude that I scratched off the rest of its legs (Eeeyew, and double eeyew!)

The rash and itching spread after the tick was removed, and that is why I am presently taking an antibiotic to keep from catching some nasty tick-borne disease. Bringing home Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever (a geographical misnomer because the disease occurs throughout America) as a souvenir would really tick me off.

Is there anything more creepy than a sneaky tick sucking your blood? Well, yeah, maybe a vampire, but how many of those do you encounter? Ticks, on the other hand, are a dime a dozen ... especially this year.

I well remember my first tick bite. I was 5 years old, we'd had a picnic in the country, and I came home with a tick embedded in my leg. Grams lit a match, blew it out and applied it to the tick's behind, a procedure that was accompanied by a lot of crying and screaming from me and my younger sisters. The tick - evidently deciding that sucking a few drops of blood wasn't worth a burned bum - withdrew only to find himself squashed and examined under a magnifying glass to ensure his head hadn't remained in my leg.

On a trip to North Carolina when son Greg was a toddler, I discovered what looked like a purple grape in his curly hair. It turned out to be an engorged tick. Although almost as grossed out as I, Ray removed it. I found the tick while combing Greg's hair in preparation for his appointment with a pediatrician for a shot because, upon arriving at my sister's door, we learned that niece Debby had measles. The doctor assured us that, in addition to fending off measles, the gamma globulin would boost Greg's immunity to tick diseases.

Decades later, Greg was bitten on the neck by a tick in his Missouri backyard. He quickly developed stiff joints and was prescribed a round of heavy-duty antibiotics by a doctor who said he grew up on the East Coast and recognized the symptoms. "A lot of doctors," he claimed, "would not have related your complaint to the tick bite."

A few years ago, Ray identified the tiny black spot on my abdomen as a tick when a magnifying glass revealed its legs. Such appendages, I've since learned, are essential to my husband's ability to identify that particular parasite. It wasn't easy for Ray to remove the tick with tweezers while I was having a major meltdown, but he managed it. I described that experience in a long-ago column titled "What was God thinking when he created ticks?"

I'm still waiting for an answer.

- Marsha Henry Goff is a freelance writer in Lawrence. Information about purchasing her book, "Life Is More Fun When You Live It Jest for Grins," is available by calling 843-2577 or e-mailing <a href="mailto:mhgink@netscape.net">mhgink@netscape.net</a>.

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