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Lyme Disease: Challenging Old Stereotypes
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Johnathan White
(johnatha1) - F

Locale: PNW
Interesting Stuff on 07/07/2010 16:12:57 MDT Print View

My 11 year old got her first tick this year section hiking a southern portion of the PCT. We got it off immediately as it drew a bit of blood and felt, to her, like a wasp sting. I did not think in keeping the damned thing tho.

Sad to hear about Captain America; he is good people as I hiked with him and Billy Goat in 2007 along the southern PCT sections to Lake Morena.

Ben Crowell
(bcrowell) - F

Locale: Southern California
dropping from trees; hot spots for Lyme in California on 07/07/2010 16:20:08 MDT Print View

I happen to work with a guy who's an arachnologist, so I emailed him to ask about whether ticks can drop from trees, and about whether Lyme disease is a significant risk here in California.

He says ticks do not drop out of trees.

He pointed me to this paper on incidence of Lyme disease in California: The most helpful map, IMO, was fig. 5. There are hot spots in Mendocino, Trinity, and Humboldt counties, i.e., in the northern coastal range. Everywhere else in California the risk is extremely low. The authors got rid of data-points from people who might have gotten the disease while traveling, and they weighted the data by population. They think there is a strong correlation with climate; Lyme disease only occurs in places where it's not too hot and not too cold. My colleague also says that it may be rare here in Southern California because young ticks feed on lizards, and the lizards' blood somehow kills off the spirochetes that cause the disease, causing the ticks not to be carriers anymore.

About lizards:

Edited by bcrowell on 07/07/2010 16:23:18 MDT.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: dropping from trees; hot spots for Lyme in California on 07/07/2010 16:56:50 MDT Print View

He says ticks do not drop out of trees.

Probably not regular or big sized trees, but it is very likely that something up to the size of a sapling, which, if brushed against, will transmit the vibrations of a passerby, and could be an excellent position for a tick to find a host. Ticks don't climb up very high, relying as they do, mostly on creatures like deer, bears, and raccoons for theirs hosts. Humans are incidental. TIcks don't have great eyesight and must rely on their sense of touch to find their hosts, so vibrations would be very important. I've personally seen ticks standing at the end of branches and fronds of tall grass, waving their legs toward where I had just touched the plant. Because of the need to find hosts, ticks would most likely have to have developed the ability to find animal trails. I don't know if this is true, but because of this it might very well be that you find fewer ticks away from animal and human trails. Has anyone had fewer problems with ticks when bushwhacking off trail?

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Under Our Skin - Lyme Disease film on 07/07/2010 17:15:12 MDT Print View

"Unfortunately there doesn't yet seem to be any option for obtaining private copies."

You can buy it from the website you list in your post (along with bumper stickers, bracelets and the official movie poster). You can rent it from Netflix. Probably other places to get it as well.

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Lyme Disease: Challenging Old Stereotypes on 07/07/2010 17:30:03 MDT Print View

I've been sitting in a ground blind under a smaller tree, and seen ticks drop onto my pants leg. So they may not drop out of trees in California, but they sure do around Rocksprings, Texas.

Dan Lazarowski
(chronon) - MLife
Lyme Tracking and Testing on 07/07/2010 17:48:57 MDT Print View

Yale University has a new iPhone application that shows tick population for a given area, and also shows photos of typical ticks and rashes.

It's available for $1.99 from the iPhone apps store and proceeds benefit the American Lyme Disease Foundation.

I'm not sure if it's still available, but the school of veterinary medicine at the University of Connecticut used to test ticks for Lyme for free. Perhaps other universities in high incident areas do this.

Ken Charpie
(kencharpie) - MLife

Locale: Western Oregon
Antibiotics, Resistance, and Misanthropy on 07/08/2010 04:14:11 MDT Print View


I believe that what Benjamin meant by calling prophylactic use of antibiotics "antisocial" was that this behavior works against the greater good of society... misanthropy would be a stronger word.

And although completing the reccomended (complete) course of antibiotics would lower the risk of creating resistant organisms, there is still a risk that you will contribute to the rise of super-bugs:

"The primary cause of antibiotic resistance is antibiotic use both within medicine and veterinary medicine. The greater the duration of exposure the greater the risk of the development of resistance irrespective of the severity of the need for antibiotics." (quoted from wikipedia; but there are many sources that will back this up)

Misuse of antibiotics increases the problem; but even appropriate antibiotic use will contribute to the natural selection of antibiotic resistant organisms. Prophylactic use without consulting a physician would be irresponsible.

I think that this was an excellent article - I very much appreciate the detailed medical reccomendations. Articles like this are exactly why I like so much... comprehensive information on lightweight backpacking philosophy and technique; not just the latest lightweight gear! Thanks for the well written article, Dan!

Donald Kevilus
(fourdogstove) - F

Locale: Woodlands
Deer ticks = Lymes disease on 07/08/2010 17:27:30 MDT Print View

Great article ! I live in a area of MN that has one of the highest rates of lymes disease in the state. Most folks who spend alot of time in the woods or outside have ether got it or some one in there family has.
Ticks are a way of life here, the worst time being the end of May through June. The commen wood tick , pick 'em off and go on with your day. But the Deer tick look hard and long for. If he bites there is a good chance you will get
Lymes disease.
The good thing here now if you have the tell tale bull's eye rash they treat right away and there is realy good awareness in the medical commuite of the disease.
I find the thicker the brush or grass the worse the ticks.
Also if there alot of deer in your area the bigger chance of the disease from the deer tick.
The best thing is just be aware and check yourself and love ones good once a day and injoy the woods !

Einstein X
(EinsteinX) - F

Locale: The Netherlands
Ticks like me on 07/10/2010 11:28:02 MDT Print View

"...It's the person who never saw the tick who is most likely to get the disease..."
"...the best way to keep ticks off the body is to wear long sleeved clothing, tuck pants into socks, and apply insect repellent..."

Just two phrases that striked me the most in this article. Indeed I think that the best thing to do about Lyme's disease is to increase awareness to the people most likely to get a tick byte. I think this is more effective than increasing awareness under house doctors. That doesn't mean though that doctors should not have more knowledge of the disease. All I'm saying is that since the first 24 hours are so important it is also very important that people likely to get bitten know what to do.

As for myself, I get bitten by ticks a lot when I'm hiking. Usually a two weeks hike will leave me with about 50 bytes. Which I agree is a lot, but since I am very much aware of them common practice is to check myself regularly during the day as well as upon arrival in camp.

Which brings me to the practice of tucking clothes in your socks. I have found ticks between my toes while wearing shoes and sock and I've found them in my privates. Therefore I don't think that tucking your clothes will matter much as they are perfectly able to crawl to wherever they can find a warm and cosy spot to byte. Then again, I like to hike in hiking shorts whereas my hiking partners hike in trousers and they usually have much less than I do.

As one poster said ticks are spiders (they have 8 legs which make them arachnids, the only fact missed in this well written article) and I always thought that DEET only works on insects (which have 6 legs). So since ticks have two legs too much to be insect, does DEET actually work? The way I know of DEET to be effective is that it basically disorientates and insect that tries to come near humans by sense of smell. Since the tick does not rely on smell but on touch I don't think DEET will be very effective when the tick has already fallen on you. I did however once have a camp in Scotland where an army of ticks was crawling my direction and I'm sure that the big one was pointing its legs to me. Was he trying to feel my vibrations or trying to sense my scent?

Permethrine I will definitively try, although it is illegal in my country.

Finally, I'd like to add that after a feed-the-local-tick-population hike I keep a close eye on my body, knowing that the chances of Lyme are very low since I think I catch 99% of the ticks within the 24 hours; as well as visiting my doctor for an blood exam. Lyme has been verified and has been treated effectively with doxycyline. So far I've been lucky and I feel healthy, however there's always a very little bit of fear that my Lyme might pop-up many years from now, because I've read that even after treatment it can lie dormant in your body to manifest many years later, but that might be a popular myth. Who knows?

Eins, is happy that the last two winters in NW Europe have been cold, killing many ticks.

Rakesh Malik

Locale: Cascadia
Re: Ticks like me on 07/15/2010 16:59:30 MDT Print View

"As one poster said ticks are spiders (they have 8 legs which make them arachnids"

They are arachnids it's true, but that doesn't actually make them spiders any more than it does crabs and scorpions, both of which are also arachnids.

Of course, not being spiders doesn't make them less creepy than spiders, either.

I don't know about Lyme's dormancy, but I haven't heard about that. I've heard a lot of stories about it being mis-diagnosed and therefore not treated properly, leading to protracted and worsening problems, as in this article. Naturally the cases where it's properly diagnosed and treated early don't get much mention.

Stuart R
(Scunnered) - F

Locale: Scotland
Tick removal on 07/16/2010 03:55:12 MDT Print View

"Ticks that are attached should be removed using fine tweezers, if available"

It is important when removing the tick not to cause distress to the tick, otherwise it will regurgitate it's stomach contents into the bite, increasing the risk of infection. The tick should not be burned, doused in alcohol or pulled off.

There are simple tools to effectively remove ticks, such as the O'Tom Tick Twister ( which are inexpensive and easy to use.

I have used these and always carry one in my first aid kit. I'm surprised they are not mentioned in the article.

Gustav Bostrom
(gusbo) - MLife

Locale: Scandinavia
Ticks and TBE in Scandinavia on 07/16/2010 16:53:32 MDT Print View

Very good article. We have a lot of ticks near Stockholm and I get bitten quite regularly, sometimes even several times daily. Especially after bushwacking walks. Several of my friends and relatives have been diagnosed and treated for Lymes disease (Here the popular name is Borrelia.). Luckily nowadays most people here seem to be aware of the disease and symptoms and get treated promptly. This article provided a lot more insight into the diagnosis and I found this information to be very good. Indeed, this is the kind of stuff I subscribe to BPL for.

To prevent illness I try to examine myself regularly. If possible everyday. Borrelia is one reason, but also the fact that the sooner you remove the tick, the easier it is. You also get less of an itching rash if you remove them quickly (Since ticks really like the groin area, the rash can be seriously annoying.). Thanks to this article I will also investigate whether I can get my clothes Permethrin treated.

A more dangerous disease, but also more rare, is TBE (Tick-Borne Encalphitis?). To prevent this you should consider getting vaccinated if you are hiking a lot in areas of high risk, such as the archipelago of Stockholm or the Baltics.

Jacob D
(JacobD) - F

Locale: North Bay
Good Article on 07/18/2010 21:32:52 MDT Print View

The last time my wife and I hiked park I had several ticks. The most memorable was right on my shaft... yeah the family jewels. I'm in California so I wasn't very concerned with Lyme disease. A few months later I started having some serious problems with my jaw very suddenly and when both my dentist and doctors were coming up with nothing I began reading about Lyme.

It turns out that most of what I thought I knew about ticks was all wrong. Apparently... never twist them, burn them, or smother them (re-iterating some points already mentioned above). Pull straight out. If the head breaks off there is no increased chance of infection. The smallest ticks are most likely to spread Lyme and male/female sex of the tick doesn't matter. Luckily for me I was only having some problems with a bad tooth affecting a nerve connected to just about everything in my face. The tooth is now fixed and compared to the alternative I got off easy.

I recently bought one of the "tick remedy" tools. It seems like it should make removal a little safer than with tweezers, as mentioned squeezing the stomach of an embedded tick is a bad idea.

Edited by JacobD on 07/18/2010 21:34:16 MDT.

Gordon Smith
(swearingen) - MLife

Locale: Portland, Oregon
Doxy on 07/20/2010 03:47:17 MDT Print View

Ticks are common in the Columbia River Gorge and I've been bitten there many times. Fortunately Lyme is not common in this area, but I take every bite very seriously all the same. Last year I developed a bullseye rash around a tick bite. It was the first time that's happened to me. My doctor recommended I just go ahead and start a 10-day course of Doxycycline right away. He said Lyme tests can be notoriously inconclusive, especially early on in the course of the disease, which is when the bug is easiest to kill. So I started on Doxy that same day. I didn't really give the superbug issue a lot of thought. Perhaps I should have. The prospect of Lyme is pretty scary though, so the peace of mind of the Doxy was a welcome thing indeed.

The Pro-Tick Remedy tool that Jacob mentioned is available at REI. It's cheap, light, tiny, and very effective. I carry one in my First Aid Kit all the time.


Edited by swearingen on 07/20/2010 03:49:36 MDT.

Mark Ryan

Locale: Somewhere. Probably lost.
Human Lyme Vaccine on 07/20/2010 07:49:21 MDT Print View

I brought my dog to get a Lyme Disease Vaccination last month. Two shot procedure over a week. I asked the vet if she could give it to me as well half jokingly. She of course said no but went on how she did some research on human vaccines. Apparently I wasn't the first to ask her.

She stated that there used to be a human vaccine years ago but was discontinued because there wasn't much money being made to justify its production. She also went on on how canine and human systems are very similar an the canine vaccine would most likely work for humans. We do share more diseases with canines then with any other animal and it's because of our codevelopment throughout time.

I wish there was a way to have the human vaccine reinstated. I'd pay for it.

Food for thought!

"May the road rise to meet you"

Aaron Reichow

Locale: Northern Minnesota
the ring on 07/23/2010 09:39:03 MDT Print View

One of the scariest things I read recently was that newer studies suggest that the bull's eye rash (EM) we all associate with Lyme's disease is a lot less common than previously thought, with only 20-50% of those infected developing the characteristic rash. Earlier studies suggest that the EM rash happens in 50-80% of cases- not a sure thing, either.

Can't find the article now, but I can keep looking if anyone is interested.

Elizabeth Tracy
(mariposa) - M

Locale: Outside
tweezers on 07/28/2010 22:07:56 MDT Print View

Those Pro-Tick Remedy tweezers look an awful lot like the little tweezers on my mini Swiss army knife. Are they really functionally different? Can I just use what I have?

Rakesh Malik

Locale: Cascadia
Re: tweezers on 07/29/2010 09:15:04 MDT Print View

I think that your tweezers would be fine. The Pro-Tick tweezers are just shaped to make it easier to get under the tick's body -- if you don't have specially shaped tweezers, you just have to be a little more careful in order to avoid squashing the bugger rather than gripping it. I've done it before, it isn't hard -- unless it's in a spot that's hard to see and/or reach, like the back of your knee. I had to get someone to help me with that one.

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: dropping from trees; hot spots for Lyme in California on 05/01/2011 21:29:45 MDT Print View

> I happen to work with a guy who's an arachnologist, so I emailed him to ask about whether ticks can drop from trees, and about whether Lyme disease is a significant risk here in California.

> He says ticks do not drop out of trees.

Well, they most certainly do in Indiana. I've had 2 separate incidents where they had to have dropped from large trees, not some little sapling. Once I had one land on my open Bible and the other time I found one on my wife's head less than 30 minutes after walking down a gravel road and a small mowed area with no brush that we were anywhere near.

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Lyme Disease: Challenging Old Stereotypes on 05/01/2011 22:37:49 MDT Print View

I've had ticks drop on my from trees in Texas.