Friday, November 4, 2016
Death to ticks!
Prior to their triumphant return to metal with the great album Book of Souls, Iron Maiden’s lead singer Bruce Dickinson found out that he had throat cancer. Battling through that, he recorded the album and then got treated for the effects that he received from contracting HPV orally. On that double CD, he recorded a song for Robin Williams, who had just lost his battle to the effects he was feeling from being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. This song, “Tears of a Clown,” is an amazing tune, and it’s one of the shorter songs on an album full of extended guitar and vocal assault epics.
As a fan of Maiden, it’s definitely a return to form.
As someone who grew up with Robin Williams, it’s sad to think of his end. I write this not to attack his choice, but to make people consider why overcoming issues is exceptional. The loss of control, body function, and independence, as coupled with depression, are cruddy things. What’s also tough is to potentially be misdiagnosed, like Williams may have been since his autopsy revealed he might have actually had Diffuse Lewy Body dementia. It’s a lot of the same symptoms, but it’s a different condition altogether.
And that’s the thing; the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease do come up other places. The Michael J. FoxFoundation even talks about this stating that there is no objective test for Parkinson’s and because of this, there is a significant misdiagnosis rate. TheAmerican Parkinson’s Disease Association adds that reliability is only certain at death when an autopsy is accomplish. So yeah, nobody is going into my brain to find things out as long as I need it.
Is this me wishing for a better conclusion? No, this is me saying that my symptoms are my symptoms. My arm and leg are trembling a fair bit today, so yeah… my symptoms are the hand I’m dealt with, so that I will.
The key is to learn and understand about other similar conditions that do these bad things.
For instance, Lyme disease is considered “the great imitator” of both Parkinson’s and Altzheimer’s, which my Gram died from. I’m not sure how typical her case is, but she forgot all of her short term memory and eventually lost her long term memory. On a positive note, she forgot she chain-smoked, so she quit that habit. On a bad note, she lived in silent fear. That was horrible to watch.
Is this me saying she was misdiagnosed? No, this is me saying that Lyme disease causes similar issues.
Right now, the CDC feels Lyme disease is not contagious amongst people, but it is contagious when a tick decides to put the Barry White loving on someone.
If you’re interested in knowing more about Lyme disease, here is an article I wrote about it for the Standing Stone Trail since our club president, Jim Garthe, is very concerned about making people aware of it, which was entitled FEAR THE TICK.
One of the things at the back or front of every hiker’s mind is how to go out and enjoy the woods without worrying about dying a horrible and protracted grisly death. In everything we do, we try to avoid pitfalls and problems, and that’s logical. Who on earth would want to be trapped in the remote woods dealing with some scenario that would make Aron Ralston’s week in Blue John Canyon and Joe Simpson’s Peruvian Andes soiree feel like a couple of walks in the park?
That said, the reality of problems occurring on hikes are that they are usually simpler, but that they are just as painful. In this, ticks are one of the simplest and most common of the everyday hiking predicaments (tune in next episode for blisters). I won’t go into great detail in my discussion of ticks since I did that in the last issue of The Rock Hopper (still available online), but I will state that you should know how to watch out for them.
However, for this issue’s tick concerns, you should be aware of 2 problems that they create.
The first of these is Lyme disease. Recently, Avril Lavigne, who is / was something of a pop star (for those people who have no idea who I’m talking about) came forward to the supermarket tabloids with her revelation that she had this disease and is currently recovering from it. This brought out former pop stars like Debbie Gibson (who was famous in the 1980s and still has a sort of career) to empathize with her since they had suffered from the condition as well.
It’s important to note that as a singer with enough money to get treated in good facilities, it still took Ms. Lavigne (who it should be noted is also the wife of the lead singer of rock band Nickelback) 8 months of searching to get the proper help for her symptoms and conditions. With medical professionals telling her that she was just dehydrated and exhausted from touring, she felt misdiagnosed, and it turns out she was right to get more opinions than the wrong ones that she was being given. For most of us, we don’t have this 2nd level pop stars’ money, so what do we have to do to know about Lyme disease and tick prevention?
That’s right. See my article from last issue or just go to the CDC’s webpage.
Erik Nivision is less famous (a producer on HLN), but he’s also an interesting case of Lyme disease because he had the condition for 2 years without the bulls eye rash that people get to say, “Hey! Guess what?” Nevertheless, he had the disease despite a lot of medical professionals missing the boat on his diagnosis as well. As a result, he has a lot of lingering symptoms from the disease. This isn’t uncommon because even quickly treated patients who are given the all clear will still suffer from symptoms.
Powassan Virus is the other concern, and that’s the extreme version of the 2015 season of tick problems. Essentially, what this means is that seizures, high fevers, and a stiff neck are the order of business for the disease, once it chooses to kick into full gear. However, it should be noted that not everyone gets these things because the person might not develop symptoms either. In addition, since there is a 1 week to 1 month incubation period, life could be hunky dory after the woodland frolic until it isn’t. I don’t know about you, but that’s definitely not my favorite. Since there’s no treatment beyond respiratory support, IV fluids, and medications to reduce swelling of body parts such as the brain, the doctor will help the victim hope for the best while crossing his fingers that said victim of the condition can be on the 90% survival side of the odds. If not, well, that could be a bigger problem. Nevertheless, even survival means battling through encephalitis and meningitis, and as those of us who know what an “itis” is, we know that we don’t want the “fevers, headaches, vomiting, weakness, confusion, loss of coordination, speech difficulties, and seizures” that go with them, nor do people who survive want to bet that they can be in the lucky half of the survivors who don’t have permanent neurological problems.
The good news is that this is rare – only 60 cases in 10 years, but Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (say that 3 times fast) has been noting that it is being seen again.
The Centers for Disease Control recommendations stand as strong for this as any tick prevention program – don’t go hiking. Just kidding. Do go hiking, but do the following: - “avoid bushy or wooded areas, use tick repellent with 20%-30% DEET, use products with .5% permethrin on clothing, boots or tents, bathe as soon as you're indoors, do a full body scan for ticks especially under arms, in your belly button and in your hair, put clothing in the dryer on high for an hour to kill any remaining ticks that are hiding,” and make sure to do the same for your furry friends that are hiking with you.
That said, remember my advice from last month: when asking people to perform a full body scan on the parts of you that you can’t see, please make sure that they are friendly people that you know. Random trail hikers might find this to go beyond acceptable levels of stranger danger.
That being said, just remember to watch out for ticks, regardless of size, while you enjoy your woodland adventures.
Here’s another article I wrote entitled TICKS: A HIDDEN DANGER
As the leaves start to turn colors and fall to the ground, it’s obvious that people will start thinking about what to do now that the ground is getting colder and ready for snow (or even better, when it is covered in snow). Thus, people will ask themselves, “Is it time to go skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, frozen waterfall climbing, winter camping, to try out for the Iditarod, or should we just stay inside and watch football, basketball, and hockey until baseball goes to Florida and Arizona for the spring?”
The answer could be any one of those things, but for hikers, now is a good time to reflect on what they can expect not to see while hiking so that they can be ready for the “green” forests and trails again in the spring. For many people, the conversation instantly goes to the pesky rattlesnake, which I have only seen once. Apparently, I can’t buy a rattlesnake sighting. I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing, but it seems to be gospel truth. At least it makes my wife happy to know I’m not getting bitten (despite my being current on life insurance).
For other people, it’s the joy of hiking without wondering about whether or not a bear will come out to play with them since winter’s cold brings bears into their dens around the end of November / early December until the weather warms up again. In light of the mauling of New Jersey college student Darsh Patel, this seems to be a fair concern, even if most hikers will attest to black bears being more afraid of us than we are of them – provided we don’t provoke them. Nevertheless, sooner or later, many hikers will see Yogi and Boo Boo, but generally, it’s more likely that they’ll spook a deer or 2 through the heavy brush when they are hiking along the ridgeline.
That being said, for as confident as other people sound about bears, I try to make sure that I’m carrying my bear spray… just in case. As the Boy Scouts taught me, “Be prepared!” I’d rather have it and not need it than figure out if I can outrun Mr. Ursine.
Let it be said: I’m no Usain Bolt. I’m not even Jeremy Giambi when it comes to speed on the (base) paths.
Thus, now that the summer is done and winter is underway, I start to think about the two best reasons that I can think to hike in winter. If the second place reason is not having to feel that nasty summer stench of hiking on a 90° humid day, then the first place victor is knowing that there are no insects hovering in my face.
There are no insects in winter, right?
And that brings us to the point of the conversation, which is how to prepare for the hiker’s biggest enemy: ticks.
Anyone who hikes in the woods has probably found one of these critters on his or her clothing or skin. They’re not always dangerous (in fact, most tick bites aren’t), but they can be very harmful to us through the spread of problems such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and even paralysis. And if we look at these insects by the numbers, we see that (according to Penn State’s College of Agricultural Science) there are more than 500 species worldwide. Of these species, more than 25 are in Pennsylvania. Thus, the good folks at PSU warn all people who enter into the woods of 4 common species: blacklegged tick, American dog tick, groundhog tick, and Lone Star tick.
The most common species you will probably run into is the American dog tick. The good news is that it doesn’t have the ability to give its human host Lyme disease. The bad news is that tularemia, tick paralysis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever are a possibility. The really bad news is that if it’s living and moving, these ticks like to attach themselves to it.
The Black legged tick is a machine that seems specifically designed for transmitting Lyme disease. The only good news about this is that they need to be on a person for 24 hours before doing what could turn out to be permanent damage. Thus, after a day of trail work or hiking, it’s going to be necessary to get someone to look at you in your birthday suit so that he or she can look for the specks you can’t see. I recommend having someone who doesn’t run away when it comes time to extract the bug from the skin.
Besides, it’s just preventative maintenance (though I don’t think it’s a good idea to ask random strangers that you meet on the trail to observe your naked backside at a secluded shelter in the middle of nowhere – just some friendly advice; then again, you never know; you could make a special friend)!
Groundhog ticks are not considered to be a worry for Lyme disease, but Lone Star ticks are prone to cause Rocky Mountain spotted fever, so if you’re hiking, you should know what to look for and to be able to get them off of you.
Some people will tell you to watch out for the small ticks because the ones you can’t see are the most dangerous, but a tick is just like any other living creature. They start small, and then they grow bigger. What that means is that you can’t judge a nasty insect solely by its size. What you can do is know how to identify them or do what you have to do in order to keep them off of you!
So what can you or I do to keep ticks off of us? Number one, we can wear repellant (DEET) or permethrins. We can check ourselves for these critters (since we aren’t going to be avoiding the woods when the weather is nice again – we like nature too much to listen to that kind of hooey), and we can wear clothing that is long-sleeved and light colored as well as a hat. As for our pants, they should be tucked into our socks. There’s no point giving these alien invaders a chance to hit any flesh that they don’t need to be on.
If worse comes to worse, and you get a tick on you, and you probably will despite your best intentions (as I will despite my own), use a forceps or tweezers to remove it. Then clean the bite off well and use antibiotic cream on the site. If signs of Lyme disease (such as “headache, fever, sore throat, and nausea” as well as a “skin lesion, which appears as a red macule or papule and expands to form a large round lesion, over a period of days or weeks. The center of this lesion often tends to be progressively clear” (erythema migrans). This stage causes “intermittent fatigue, fever, headache, a stiff neck, arthralgias or myalgias.”
None of these things are good, so do what you have to do in order to prevent these issues while you keep having enjoyable hikes in the Pennsylvania woods!
You can find out more about ticks at Penn State’s website.