Let me tell you, the last week has been tough. Are you ready for a very random blog post?

About a week and a half ago I was ready to take the world on. I had a head of steam, was out shopping at Lowe's for some lumber to build some master bathroom cabinets, and was getting ready to both attend a few Nationals games and knock out a ton of little projects.

We then spent a bunch of time running around at our new house and watching the Osrpey and other local wildlife...

...and generally being productive. Life was good.

Then last Tuesday I started to feel bad. It was about lunch time and I just started feeling tired and lethargic. By about 4:00pm I was feeling progressively worse and had to leave work and head home. By the time I got home I could barely walk. I ambled in the front door, dropped my bag and shoes, walked right upstairs and crawled into bed. 

I don't get sick often, and when I do, I don't like to rest much, just enough to get well. But this, this was different. I've never felt so sick so quickly, and I've never had an overwhelming need just to go to bed. My joints ached, my whole body was slow, I was hot and cold, I felt sick to my stomach, stomach craps, eventually vomiting, and my heart was racing/beating irregularly. To me, this was all just crazy, and I was not doing well!

As I was laying there, rolling around and trying to get comfortable, I had an itch on the back of my leg and my hand hit something that felt weird. I pulled myself up to look at what I'd touched on my leg and there it was, a deer tick firmly attached to the back of my right thigh, feeding away.

I couldn't believe it. I've never been bit by a tick in my life and this little bastard had hitchhiked on my leg for who knows how long. And if this guy had been on my leg, was it possible that another had bitten me and I hadn't seen it?

While I had none of the traditional visible signs associated with things like Lyme or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, like the bulls-eye rash or spots around my wrists or ankles, I had many of the traditional symptoms associated with them or many of the other things one can get from a tick bite. As a result, my doctor started me on 20 days of antibiotics to ensure we knock anything out that I might have, we sent the tick off for testing (since we still had him), and I basically laid in bed for about five days with all of my grand plans of project work completely derailed. The only thing productive I did those five days was ordering two tick removal tweezers just in case we'd ever need them again, since normal tweezers just don't work very well for tick removal.

Then, after nearly a week, I finally started to feel like myself again. We headed back out to the house to do a little more work and so I could keep recovering by doing important things like roasting marshmallows by the fire pit. It was pretty much a perfect night in spite of still not feeling 100%.

After we wrapped up for the night and headed inside, we decided to do a tick check on us and Lulu, just in case. While we're not certain where I picked up my stow away, we think it was probably in the yard of our house. Well, wouldn't you know it, we found another tick crawling along on Lulu's leg, even though we just applied her monthly flea and tick treatment a few days earlier. We quickly removed it with our special tick tweezers that had already arrived and were lucky enough to get this dude before he started feeding. But it reinforced just how diligent we're going to need to be after we spend time outside.

How gross is that?

Lulu, for one, does not mind all of this additional attention. She's blissfully unaware and I think she sees tick checks as a generally relaxing massage that should be embraced and enjoyed. Meanwhile, we're looking into various options for treatment of our yard and additional protective approaches to reduce the large number of ticks we're seeing. This includes anything from yard spraying to vinegar mixes to lint rollers (to pick up ticks from clothing and dog fur after running around outside).

Would love to hear your experiences if you've had issues with ticks in your yard and how you were able to take care of them.

When I wasn't generally feeling like complete crap (which was pretty much just on Memorial Day) we were actually able to get a little bit of work done, but we lost a solid week of our planned effort and most of a long weekend, which really stinks. Wendy was able to pick up the slack by ripping out the tile behind the shower to expose the freeze damaged piping, but that primarily had us asking the simple question of "who felt tile was necessary on this wall?" She showed that wall who's boss, though she was a little worse for wear after all was said and done.

Hopefully we'll have a bunch more exciting DIY related updates in the coming weeks, and far fewer "I was sick and basically crippled by illness." But Lyme and everything else ticks can bring is no laughing matter, and I've known people that have not been fortunate to catch their ailments early and knock it out. So I realize I'm very fortunate in this respect. 

But one thing is for sure, we've got to be proactive and do something about these ticks so it doesn't become a much larger issue as time goes on.

Comments 41

Comments

Anne
5/28/2015 at 1:43 PM

We deal with ticks out here in western ffx county. We are hesitant to treat the yard because of the dog's love for eating grass. But, we've had really good luck by clearing out all of the leaves and whatnot from the fenced area of our yard. No ticks on the dog this spring, when last year there were dozens. Ticks love shady moist areas, firewood piles, etc. I've been bitten a number of times, but never gotten sick (ours seem to be all lone star type ticks). We do a tick check on every family member and dog after we've been outside for any length of time, or working in any wooded areas. Also, we do front line every month, even winter (it just takes one day in the 50's for them to emerge) and have had the dog vaccinated for lymes.

Alex
5/28/2015

We have that same concern with Lulu regarding eating the grass, but perhaps we'll need to figure out a way to stop that bad habit. We've not had her vaccinated for Lyme due to the conflicting info we get about it, but we're looking into it.

Melbournite
5/30/2015 at 11:17 PM

Eating grass is natural for cats and dogs, right?

Holly Laffoon
5/28/2015 at 1:45 PM
Does your dog get vaccinated against Lyme disease? (I don't know if there's one for people, though!)
Alex
5/28/2015

At this point she doesn't. We're selective on vaccinations due to her previous history with cancer, but it's something we're looking into and learning more about.

Melissa Wilson MacGregor
5/28/2015 at 1:49 PM
Had our GS troop down near Waldorf 2 weekends ago and the ticks were HORRIBLE. We pulled 10 off one girl alone - no amount of bug spray, long socks, pants, etc. would help. I have heard that keeping grass very short can help. I have seen a few pest control companies claim they can help.
Alex
5/28/2015

Oh man, poor girl. Like she was a tick magnet.

Bea
5/28/2015 at 1:50 PM

That really stinks, Alex. Sorry you got sick.
We get our yard sprayed by Mosquito Squad from April until October. The barrier spray takes care of both mosquitos and ticks. It really is necessary for me, since I am one of those people that mosquitos just love. It works great for us, and costs about $600 for the season. A lot of companies are doing this kind of spraying, now. Just call around for quotes, if you are interested.
Also, we get the Lyme vaccination for our dog. The vets say they see a lot of Lyme disease here in Richmond.

Alex
5/28/2015

I think we're going to be getting our yard sprayed. Good to know your price for comparison.

5/28/2015 at 1:58 PM

I use an essential oil mixture that I spray on the dog when she goes out, and then when she comes back in I roller with one of those lint tape rollers. Especially helpful with darker color dogs!

Also you can get your yard(s) treated for ticks to help reduce exposure. This year is gonna be really bad with all the moisture we had over the winter.

Tick check everyone every night, they crawl around for hours before attaching to feed.

Glad you're feeling better and I hope that 20 days is enough to get rid of it. I would recommend seeing a lyme literate doctor, they tend to treat for about 6 weeks.

Elanor
5/28/2015 at 9:42 PM

I absolutely agree with Tessa. Go see a Lyme specialist (Lyme literate doctor). From personal experience, 20 days of treatment is not long enough.

5/28/2015 at 11:47 PM

Just chiming in to agree. Think you should seen a specialist. Others I know who've gone through this have had much longer courses of antibiotics as do dogs who are exposed.

Also my landlord owns a pest control company and he is now spraying our yard monthly bc I didn't want to take chances with the new baby. I don't like the chemicals but Mosquitos (they were so bad) and ticks are worse. The chemicals are deemed safe after 24 hrs. So far we are really happy with theb results.

I am really sorry you have to deal with this.

Alex
5/28/2015

Thanks, Tessa. I think I'm going to followup with a Lyme Literate Doctor just to be sure. I've known too many people affected by Lyme to not take it seriously.

I've ready about the vinegar and essential oil concoction for dogs as well. We're going to be doing this for Lulu too.

I do think the key here is both prevention and always checking.

Margaret Schleicher Bjorklund
5/28/2015 at 2:19 PM
Lots of them this year down here. Checking constantly. Thanks for sharing. Feel better--and back to work.
Alex
5/28/2015

Alt smile Thank you. I've got my task list!

Sheri K
5/28/2015 at 2:23 PM

I'm not an ecologist but recent research in the field indicates that the reduction in small mammal predators like the red fox has allowed for an increase in small mammals and tick borne diseases. Red foxes have been decimated by coyotes which flourished when wolves were removed from ecosystems. Trophic cascade at its best. Here's an article. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3390851/ And none of that does you a hill of beans of good with the ticks you've got but thought you might find it interesting.

Alex
5/28/2015

That is interesting, and it makes a lot of sense. It's all such a balanced ecosystem so it's not surprising that small alterations have tremendous changes.

Kelly
5/28/2015 at 2:48 PM

After seeing the Lowe's picture at the start, I thought maybe they had put your cart away again.

Alex
5/28/2015

Hahaha. I had almost forgotten about that terrible experience. While I'd have preferred losing a cart over how sick I felt, it would be a close comparison. Alt wink

Karin K
5/28/2015 at 3:13 PM

Oh No! Stay well!

Alex
5/28/2015

Thanks, Karin.

McEnearney Associates, Inc.
5/28/2015 at 3:25 PM
It's amazing how fast and hard a tick infection can hit you. Glad you're on antibiotics so quickly!!
Erin Fields
5/28/2015 at 3:44 PM

Tick info on Slate that I found really interesting and potentially helpful. http://www.slate.com/articles/life/the_kids/2015/05/tick_borne_diseases_are_spreading_fast.html

Alex
5/28/2015

Thank you for the link. Very interesting and enlightening.

Shantel
5/28/2015 at 9:44 PM

Just read your post and dear Lord! So sorry you had to go through such an ordeal. Growing up in the country and playing in the yard, in the woods, etc as a kid, I've had my share of tick bites.
However, things are so different now. Insects are carrying the wildest things and you have to be so careful.

Glad you're feeling better!

Congrats on the new house!!

Shantel

Alex
5/28/2015

I was thinking that too. When we were kids it was no big deal, but now with more awareness and risk it's dangerous to ignore.

Jane Pearson
5/28/2015 at 11:50 PM
This really is such a bummer!
Carly
5/29/2015 at 1:42 AM

So sorry to hear about your potential Lyme's. Please keep us updated with how you are feeling and what you use on your yard.
Last month I found a deer tick walking around on my dog's face, after she was acting weird and kept rubbing her face on me, so we have been trying to find a natural and effective way treat our yard. I had to stop using the prescribed flea and tick meds on her since they were making her sick, but I have since purchased a natural flea and tick spray that I apply throughout the day.

Kate
5/29/2015 at 8:22 AM

We have six dogs, and three of them have allergies and one has seizures so I am always leary about getting the yard sprayed with anything. For the past couple of years we have used food grade diatomaceous earth. I know you can buy diatomaceous earth at places like Lowe's but it's not food grade and honestly doesn't work nearly as well. We buy ours off Amazon, it's really inexpensive and we use one of those Scott's spreaders to distribute it around the yard. Generally we do every couple of weeks, we live on an acre of land and back up to a very forested area with a creek so we definitely have to potential to have a lot of bug issues, but even with six dogs we have managed to avoid ticks for the past three years (bees are another story).

It just made me a lot more comfortable using the diatomaceous earth since it's food grade, so if our dog with seizures licks the grass it doesn't hurt him, I always worry about putting chemicals anywhere near him since we never know what is going to set him off. Hope this helpsAlt smile

Laura C
5/29/2015 at 9:17 AM

My weekend home is in an area with one of the country's worst Lyme infection rates. I wear long pants, long sleeves and spray myself like crazy every time I'm working in the yard, no matter how hot the weather. It helps, some, but vigilant tick-checking is a must, no matter what you spray or where you spray it. Personally, I don't like the idea of spraying chemicals all over my yard, in part because we drink well water, and I don't think the natural treatments do much at all. Found two deer ticks on myself last weekend, but because I check morning and night, they had not begun to feed and were attached less than 12 hours, which greatly decreases the risk of transmitting any disease. In the past few years of picking up many, many ticks, I've only had to do antibiotics once, after developing a bulls-eye rash. Check, check, and check again. Listen to the Brad Paisley song "I want to check you for ticks" for inspiration.

Stephanie
5/29/2015 at 9:59 AM

Oh my gosh I hope you feel better. Two things.

First my mom had to receive treatment for Lyme Disease and be careful a side effect of one the medications is like extreme sensitivity to sunlight so wear sunblock!

Also my dogs and I like to camp and one really frustrating thing about flea/tick medicine for dogs is it does not repel ticks. The way it works is it kills them once they bite your dog. Ugh! Not very helpful when your sharing a very small tent with two very tick covered dogs. So even with tick medicine you still have to check for ticks.

Whitney Kerr
5/29/2015 at 1:10 PM

I have two tick horror stories, but none of them resulted in long term issues. Thank goodness.
One, I went for a walk in a forest with a friend, and after I dropped her off, I was sitting in my car and noticed a ridiculous number of ticks crawling all over my car. I tried calling her to warn her, but didn't get through for several hours. Her and her boyfriend spent the evening de-ticking her, once I finally got through. I'm pretty sure she spent the whole time crying.
On another day, after going to bed, I had an itch and when I went to scratch, I felt something. I couldn't get it off, and started to panic, calling for M. He ended up having to dig a tick out of my back, poking around to make sure he had all of it. Not pleasant.
Those things give me the heebie jeebies!

Dorota K
5/29/2015 at 4:35 PM

We hike a lot and there have been worsening tick strains here in the northeast. Our forager friends recently recommended treating our clothes with permithrin, which kills any ticks it comes in contact with. It can be irritating directly on skin, but works well on clothes. Doesn't affect dogs, but dangerous to cats. Ticks don't jump, you have to brush by them, so treating socks is important too.
HOpe you feel better!

Gaidig
5/29/2015 at 4:52 PM

Yikes! What a miserable way to spend your holiday, but hopefully the treatment has beaten any issues. When will you hear the results on the tick test?

David
5/31/2015 at 2:45 PM

So glad you caught it early and got treatment Alex! Stay on top of your symptoms, because Lyme CAN come back - not likely, but possible, even if you don't get another tick bite.

Most importantly, glad you're feeling better!!

laura
5/31/2015 at 9:53 PM

One of the products we have used for years is Sevin granules in the yard...and it does help, although nothing is 100%. We live on a farm and it is not uncommon to find ticks walking somewhere underneath our clothes...but nightly showers and inspections go a long way. My mother once developed rocky mt. spotted fever as a result of a tick and she had your symptoms along with delirium, but has had no lasting problems. One other thing that helps is to tuck your pants into your socks and wear long sleeve shirts that you can tuck into the cuffs of your work gloves...you look like a dork, but a tick free dorkAlt smile

bfish
5/31/2015 at 10:30 PM

Alex, I'm really sorry about your unhappy encounter with the tick and hope you're feeling much better. I've held off on commenting because I'm trying to temper my impulse to say something that might seem confrontational. But, here goes anyway, and hopefully folks can forgive me for being passionate.

PLEASE don't go for the insecticide yard treatment described by a few people above. These things can't be selective and only kill ticks and mosquitoes; beneficial insects are also affected as well as fish (you live on the water) and probably birds. Maybe I'm too skeptical but I have a hard time buying claims of "environmentally friendly" or benign pesticides.

Here in southern Virginia things are mighty buggy and I spend a lot of time in my wooded yard. Ticks are actually way down the list of things I worry about (though I get them on me or embedded in me every year), below copperheads, poison ivy, mosquitoes, and falling tree branches. I gladly take on these risks however to enjoy a fish pond and an abundance of birds, bees and other wildlife.

6/1/2015 at 4:07 PM

You could get a couple of guinea hens ;) 2-3 of them can clear five acres of ticks, but in return you have to put up with the most singularly annoying bird call on full volume all day long. I've had two on my farm for 6-7 months and I've pulled far fewer ticks off myself and my donkeys this year.

Sheri K
6/5/2015 at 7:24 PM

Looks like possums are allies in the fight against ticks too. Ticks are attracted to them but the possums spend so much time grooming themselves that not many of the ticks on them survive. Brake for possums. Alt smile

http://www.caryinstitute.org/discover-ecology/podcasts/why-you-should-brake-opossums

And don't worry...I won't be posting tick related articles to this post years from now!

Little Red
6/6/2015 at 11:43 PM

Glad to hear that you're feeling better now.

6/15/2015 at 12:25 PM

Ewwwwww! Ticks freak me out, hard core. I've never actually seen them around here but so many people I know who live in the southeast deal with them on a regular basis. I'd be terrified to go outside because lyme disease is no laughing matter. My doctor recently tested me for it because I exhibited a ton of the symptoms (not the vomiting, thank goodness) and man, I can tell you that is not fun. Glad to hear you're feeling better.

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