In the spring, a sportsman's fancy turns to thoughts of big bass and trout. For this is the time, when frozen streams clear and lakes first warm, that they are most likely to bite again. But so, unfortunately, is one of the most pesky of outdoor foes: the tick, an odd, determined creature who, after his wintertime fast, is out for blood.
Of the more or less 5,000 harmful members of the insect world, few are so well equipped for the job as the Ixodidae (hard shelled) or Argasidae (soft shelled) tick, the two varieties which populate the U.S. A parasite supreme, they are wholly dependent on stolen blood from animals and man, and they carry a fearful variety of sometime-fatal diseases: Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Q fever, typhus, tularemia, tick paralysis, Colorado tick fever, to name only the most dangerous. Strictly speaking, the tick is not a true insect but more akin to the spider, equipped with eight legs instead of the standard six of insects. This extra pair of legs serves him well. He clings precariously atop a long blade of grass or shrub by two legs and gropes in hungry ambush with the other six. When an animal or man brushes by, he quickly grabs on (he does not drop or leap down on his victim as has been claimed), often roams for 12 hours before he finds a spot to jab his beaklike mouth, armed with a brace of curved teeth, and sets to work.
The first line of defense whenever tramping through a field or woods is to wear high boots, a hat and a tightly buttoned collar. Repeated applications of tick-repellent should protect still-exposed skin. But keep a watchful, searching eye out for the tiny (3/16 inch long) blackish or reddish-brown invaders for they manage to slip under the tightest of clothing, and 99 times out of 100 you won't feel his bite. In tick-infested areas, particularly, inspect your clothing before dressing or undressing. Since ticks seldom attach to the skin at once and since they do not pass on possible infection in the first few hours, the quicker you can rid yourself of the pest the safer you are.
The best way to remove a tick is to pluck it from the skin with tweezers, then wash the area with soap and water. You can use fingers if you pull gently so as not to squeeze any infected blood from the tick's bloated body (four to five times normal size) into the wound. Some people apply a burning cigarette, tobacco juice, alcohol, iodine, gasoline, kerosene or turpentine and while this will certainly kill the critter, the cure is liable to be more irritating than the bite. The most common misbelief concerning ticks is that they twist their heads into the skin, like a bit, hence one must "unscrew" the jaws to get them out. This is sheer superstition. A tick stabs the skin much as a mosquito, and by "unscrewing," you are sure to leave part of the mouth imbedded in the skin. It is true that ticks can carry serious disease, and if you develop a flulike illness, blinding headaches around the eyes and a bouncing fever four or five days after being bitten, waste no time in getting to a doctor. Otherwise don't fret. Less than one tick in 500 can do more than perhaps make you feel squeamish.