Sunday, June 30, 2013

Tick, Tick, Tick . . . The German Teacher, the German Kid, and Lyme Disease

Our daughter went on a class trip to a gorgeously woodsy area of Northwestern Germany where, she informed me as she was just about to head out the door, 
"the teacher said there might be some ticks."
Ever anxious, I vaulted out of her room and returned with my preventive measures, namely the following "therapy-grade" essential oils: 
100% Lavender
100% Cedar
100% Rose Geranium 
 100% Citronella oil 
"No, no, Mommy!" she shook her increasingly determined little head.  "She said only maybe there might be some."  Time was on her side.  She was due for the bus right then.
And I figured Germany didn't really have that many bugs.  Surely the teacher would have said something.  So okay.
Well, we are folks who hardly ever use our cell phones.  We're old.  We don't like them.  And they would have been turned off anyway, because we were at the theater seeing King Lear--an astonishingly good King Lear by a Royal Shakespeare troupe performed in a replica of the Globe Theater.  I still can't figure what actors that good were doing staging a  show for the likes of us in . . . from their point of view, the sticks.  Anyway, there we were, enjoying the show, cell phones utterly off.
So we got home at midnight and the babysitter said the teacher had phoned twice.  "Was she allowed to remove ticks that had burrowed into our daughter's skin?"
Hyperventilating, I called her back.  "Yes, please do remove them right away!  You can always remove them!"
By the time she had tweezed out the things with a special contraption specially made for tick-removal, the ticks had already settled down comfortably for the night, having been cozily buried for the previous two hours under several layers of my daughter's epidermis.
Oh, it is so German that the law in these parts requires the teacher to phone us before she removes a tick from our child . . . because technically she is performing "surgery."  Or something.
How long does it take for infected ticks to transmit poison?  How likely are Northwestern German ticks to be as bad as American ticks?  Would a blood test show anything?  Should we dump a load of antibiotics into our little sweetie even before the blood test offers what are likely to remain inconclusive results?  It helped not at all that the New Yorker that I just received--the July 1 issue--includes an essay, "The Lyme Wars," all about how the lyme disease rate of infection continues to grow.
One reassuring statistic--that it takes 36 hours for a bug to transmit a disease--may be entirely inaccurate.
So do we call the pediatrician when the kid seems fine and has nothing to show for her ordeal but the faintest of pink spots where the teacher's tweezers pulled out the offending insects?  Then she checked my kid, and all the other kids, at the hairline, the ankle-line, and every other line except the places where they were supposed to check themselves.  I can rely on the German sense of order and of thoroughness:  there ain't no more ticks on our kid's body.
But what about the two the teacher removed?  Were they sick bugs or well bugs, and how do I find out which?  Probably by becoming God, and that doesn't seem likely anytime soon.


  1. The New YOrker article is terrifying. But Lyme is no joke. Perhaps the reason the teacher had to ask is that it is too easy to leave the head or mandibles behind?

  2. I don't know . . . but sure hope leaving those ticks in her skin for the two hours it took to get in touch with us did no harm . . . any docs out there who know?

  3. Hi there, I´ve only visited here a few times, but since I am German and have had Lyme disease before, I thought I might qualify for commenting :-)

    Honestly, I´d just go see a doctor and tell them to specifically test your girl for Lyme disease (don´t have them talk you out of it - just ask for the test to be done and insist). If the test turns out positive, go get some antibiotics and finish them properly, and she will surely be fine.

    Good luck! (I suppose you all got TBE-shots? In case you live in a „FSME-Risikogebiet“, your insurance should pay for them. Risikogebiete:

    Best wishes from
    „the German“

  4. Thanks for visiting, and thanks for the information, which is very helpful. Calling the Kinderarzt tomorrow. This all happened in Solingen . . . I wonder how dangerous that area is?

  5. ...if you see any red, circular irritations around the bite sites over the next days or weeks, take her to a doctor immediately. But I'm sure you'll already know all about Lyme by this point, being an (understandably) anxious parent.

    Since we had an outdoor cat when I was growing up, and I spent lots of time in trees and undergrowth, I've had more ticks than have fingers and never got it; on the other hand, a family member did get it, from a tick that grew up in the Essen area or so. That said, it was treated and hasn't caused any problems in the years since.

    Fingers crossed for your daughter!

  6. OY... this was in Solingen, a supposedly "green" area. I do check those bite marks almost every day. But I don't get why the teacher had to call us before removing them. She's clearly required to do so . . . . on the other hand, these days, the States may be even more over-regulated.

  7. Hey there, critical Mom,
    Sorry for getting back to you so late, I spent the past days in the sunshine (with my BF coming home from a walk in the woods with about 5 ticks ;-))
    If the area is green, the danger for TBE shouldn´t be to high, but TBE is a whole different story. I´d still say the best thing would be to go see a doctor and have your daughter checked for Lyme. To my knowledge, the red marks don´t always show up. They did very late in my case. Maybe the teacher called to not get in trouble afterwards, who knows...
    My fingers are crossed, too!
    "The German"

  8. There are some rules for teachers etc that make less sense than others. Mind you, when I was a volunteer for Oxfam (in England) and got a small cut on my hand while sorting donations, the manager made sure I put it down in the accident book (!) and offered me the first aid kit -- I could tell she would have loved to help me, she was always very protective of all of us volunteers, very kind and sweet, but the rules said I'd have to apply the bandaid myself. Makes little sense. I think all those folks who come up with the rules upon rules should be made to follow all those rules for at least a few months before they can make them binding for everyone else. :)

  9. Just got that blood test today . . .