I returned from a camping trip to Cornwall and found I’d carried an unexpected guest back with me. A small, black speck on my wrist that I first thought was a scab, turned out to be a blood-sucking tick. My discovery prompted panic and revulsion so I did what anyone in a state of alarm would, I took a picture of it and Googled a solution. As it turns out, few adventure blogs deal with tick removal, so I thought I’d write about my findings.
Removing ticks should be done by gently prising them away from the skin by their head with tweezers. I returned the bread knife to the kitchen and went searching for some.
The process is a bit fiddly because a tick does not have the giant cranium of your typically smug Tory voter and I struggled to grasp it. Once I had it, I pulled. To my horror the skin on my wrist stretched and the tick did not budge. It’s jaws were surprisingly strong, even stronger than me; an 85kg man with the fight-or-flight response.
I resisted the urge to get a cigarette lighter to burn it off, I read that doing this may make a tick to throw-up into your blood stream. The same applies to smothering them with petroleum jelly or alcohol, though I felt the two large glasses of wine I’d drunk were helping me. I stipulated that my alcohol infused blood may inebriate the tick so he’d let go and chat about the world’s ills.
I downed more wine, adjusted my grip and had another go. My skin stretched as I pulled away, the tick’s legs wriggled as it sought purchase, fighting for it’s meal. I gritted my teeth and exerted as much force as I dared; I didn’t want to squish his stomach contents back into my arm. With one last twitch of the legs, my parasitic chum relented. The skin on my arm pinged back into place.
There was a red mark where the tick had fed. I checked the red speck for signs of the tick’s mouth parts which can detach and cause infection. I washed the mark with hot water and soap. I turned to my foe, he wriggled dejectedly in his metal shackle, he knew the game was up. I crushed him and disposed of the corpse down the drain. It was better that way, I didn’t want to risk someone else getting bitten or the tick standing as a member of parliament for the Conservatives.
My ordeal over I reflected upon how he attached himself. Ticks live in grassy regions with plenty of foliage. They feed on deer and livestock though aren’t particularly picky when it comes to finding their next meal and can detach from their shady hiding place to drop or crawl on to anything with a heartbeat. It could have come from any place on our 4-day hike between Boscastle and Clovelly.
The red mark on my arm has died down now, but the true aftermath could still be a couple of weeks away. Ticks carry anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, babesiosis, Lyme disease and Colorado tick fever. Though unlikey to contract any of those from the wilds of the Cornish coast I still feel a pang of anxiety when I think about them. Any flu-like symptoms, rash, muscular aches and pains days or weeks after removing the tick means a trip to the doctor.
To avoid becoming a meal for a tick you can wear long-sleeved shirts of tightly woven fabric, a buff and tuck your trousers into your socks while hiking. If you don’t want to look like a dork then plastering your clothes in Permethrin and yourself in DEET will also discourage the blighters. Sadly you can’t do much about the Tories.