Nuts About Bikes

Small creatures - big trouble;
Protecting against tick-borne illness

tickMotorcycling puts us "out there," in the landscape, one with the environment. It's one of the common threads that riders around the world hold dear.

But being out there bring risks house-dwellers and SUV captives rarely face. The great outdoors can be hazardous to your health.

One serious threat is the tiny tick, a blood-sucking arachnid that will latch itself onto a warm human for a free meal – and potentially make you very ill in the process. The blood-suckers are laying in wait just about everywhere in spring, summer and fall. And they can put you in a world of hurt.

Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis, relapsing fever, Colorado tick fever, tularemia, cytauxzoonosis, etc. etc. If you live on planet Earth, there's a tick-borne disease lurking in the woods and meadows near your home waiting to cut you off at the knees.

Based in southern New Jersey, one of the nation's hotbeds of Lyme disease, the Nuts About Bikes crew has seen the ravages of tick-borne sickness first hand. It ain't pretty, folks. Fever, weakness, chills, muscle pain - an overall state of misery and sickness gets going from the bugs that live in the gut of the tick. Then there's a whole new cascade of trouble caused by the high-test antibiotics required to battle the little cretins once they find their way into your bloodstream.

The long and short of it - the bugs live in the tick and do not make them sick. Ticks are just carriers. Like mosquitoes, when a tick bites, it injects anticoagulant into your body to keep the blood flowing. During this process is also spits whatever nasties are living inside of it directly into your bloodstream.

For the rider, it's mostly common sense.

  • If you have to pull over for a mechanical issue or to take a break - try to avoid areas of tall grass and dense underbrush – the places ticks love to lurk.
  • Don't wander into woods or brush without protection: pack a can of repellent containing DEET in your saddlebag and if you must go bushwhacking, tuck your pants into your boots and spray your legs and arms
  • Check yourself carefully once you're back on macadam and later in the shower
  • Keep in mind, these suckers are small - a hungry deertick is scarcely bigger than the head of a pin
  • If you find a tick attached, know the safe way to remove it and keep an eye out for symptoms of illness after the fact

To remove an attached tick, it's best to use curved tweezers that will grab the tick by the nose without squeezing the body (which could expose you to a greater quantity of pathogens.) A number of tools designed just for the purpose are available. Here's a survey of what's out there.

If you do any research on the topic, you will read some archaic information - leftover from the 1980s – about the bullseye rash that appears before disease symptoms occur. This has since proven to be a very unreliable indicator. Some will get the rash and no disease, some will get the disease and no rash.

What's more important is that you pay attention to your body after a tickbite – looking out for fever, chills, unusual fatigue, muscle pain and an overall run-down feeling. If you are the least bit suspicious, seek medical attention immediately because the sooner you start on medication the better your chances of fast recovery.

Read more: Centers for Disease Control; Wikipedia

– Sal Emma, Editor
May 2007

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