My first malady that involved some sort of procedure was the removal of a tick—the annoying little bug that digs into skin and feeds off of blood. This is not a topic that comes to mind often, except during our annual Best Doctors issue when I am reminded of that day as a kid when the world of medicine was reduced to its most basic. To remove the critter a kindly adult blew cigarette smoke on the affected spot, which supposedly caused the tick to loosen his grip. That proved to be a fatal mistake for the tick, as he was quickly speared by a needle and his carcas flicked into eternity. After a splash of antiseptic I was deemed cured and able to rejoin the tick- free world. Though not without some misconceptions.
I seem to recall that my tick diagnosis came during a camping trip, and the likely source was said to be moss which I was told ticks inhabit. I did not need to be told twice. Anyone who knows me knows that they never see me wearing moss. While others envision a romantic drapery on Southern trees, I see an encampment for bloodsuckers. But here’s the rub. While preparing for this column I discovered a list of outdoor myths, one of which is that moss is inhabited by ticks. Not so, says the article. Ticks prefer plants with longer leaves so that they can better swing on to living organisms including, their favorite, dogs. And all this time I could have dressed like a Moss Man for Mardi Gras.
Then I discovered another tick myth: cigarettes are not always effective for chasing them away. Supposedly they usually don’t mind the heat. Again, I was disillusioned. One of my earliest childhood cures was based on a discredited method. Next thing someone will say that leeches really don’t cure measles.
I guess it is good that there are so many Best Doctors. This medicine stuff can get complicated.