By Chuck Nottingham
Ticks, little parasitic arachnids ranging in sizes smaller than the period at the end of this sentence to larger than a .22 rimfire case-head, have plagued warm-blooded animals in warmer climates forever.
In most of Montana, May is warm enough. They're here!
American Red Cross advises light-colored clothing when in wooded, bushy, or grassy areas to see ticks easier. Long-sleeved shirts are best buttoned at wrists and tucked into waistbands of long pants. Tuck pants legs into socks or boot-tops, or tape or band them against long socks to keep ticks from crawling under clothing.
Staying to walkways, trails, and avoiding limbs, brush and tall grass helps. Added protection may be afforded by repellent sprays, but caution is urged to carefully follow directions of each product. All are for external use only, some are solely for outer clothing, and others are strictly for livestock or pets.
Frequent checks help reduce tick dangers. Although the mini-vampires seize onto victims with sharp, multi-toothed beaks used to burrow into skin, they often go unnoticed due to anesthetizing agents secreted while biting.
Inspect yourself, children, and pets often. Partner-inspection of hard-to-see areas like backs of necks and hairlines is highly recommended whenever possible.
Besides infection dangers and harmful toxins injected into hosts, ticks also transmit serious diseases. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme Disease are only two which have proved debilitating and deadly to humans.
Movies like Red River and Lonesome Dove don't tell us part of the reason Texas became glutted with cattle in the 1860s was "Texas fever," caused by ixodidae ticks. When Arkansas and Louisiana governments invoked quarantines preventing the real J. G. McCoy from moving cattle east, desperation pushed the cattleman and followers to drive herds to northern railheads where drovers found the first "hard frost" killed the tick, freeing cattle for eastern shipment.
Since then, tick removal has enjoyed a fanciful history of removal methods. Most are now rejected in favor of serrated tweezers to gently pull the intact animal from its hold. Present methods warn against further injury to skin by using ice, heat, or flame to force the little critters to "let go." Ointments to "smother" locked-on ticks are ineffectual and may prove as harmful.
Do not use fingers to pull ticks out. Often a magnifying glass assists first-aiders to use tweezers in the exacting task to avoid squeezing dangerous toxic and germ-infected fluids from the tick's body into wound.
Immediately clean the injury with soap and water or alcohol wipes. Wash hands or any other skin surface making contact with ticks. Medical attention is advised should a part of the tick remain in the wound or at any sign of reaction or infection.
Typical reactions to tick toxins or diseases are rashes and hives; headaches and body-aches, nausea and listlessness, and fevers or chills.