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Ask Dr. Gott 4/7

Solution to ticks: Get 'em loaded

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DEAR DR. GOTT: I live in tick country, close to Old Lyme, Conn., where tick inspection and removal have become routine.
    We fully agree with your recommendation to grab them with tweezers close to the head and pull. However, when the creature is embedded firmly or is a very small deer tick, the head is left behind, buried in the skin.
    To overcome this, the creature is anesthetized by applying an alcohol-soaked (rubbing alcohol, gin or whisky) cottonwool swab for a minute or so, after which the whole tick can be pulled out easily.
    DEAR READER: As a general rule, leaving the tick's head in the skin, while removing its entire body, is harmless: Your skin will reject it sooner or later, and the head itself will not cause Lyme disease.
    However, if you choose to inebriate the tick first, fine. At least it will die happy after a martini or two.

    DEAR DR. GOTT: I always enjoy reading about all the mystical cures for muscle cramps in your column. No one seems to know the explanation of how they work — whether quinine tablets, bars of soap or whatever. I have had periodic muscle cramps since childhood.
    As a veterinarian, I treated a number of cases of azoturia (Monday Morning disease, "tying up syndrome") in horses. This condition involves muscle cramps, lactic acidosis and necrosis (death) of muscle cells, among other abnormalities. If not treated early, it could result in the death of the horse. Sodium bicarbonate (Arm & Hammer baking soda) given orally was one of the treatments employed. I got to thinking about the physiology course I took in veterinary school, where we learned about the equation that explained the way the body keeps the proper acid-base balance in tissue cells. I began taking 1 level teaspoon of baking soda in a small glass of water whenever I got cramps, with complete relief within five minutes.
    Apparently, the treatment doesn't have any grave side effects, since I have used it hundreds of times over the past 40 years. Although the complete answer may be rather complex, I attribute this to restoration of the normal acid-base balance within the muscle cells. My case doesn't speak for all cases of muscle cramps, but I thought you might be interested. Also, it has occurred to me that the condition may have a possible genetic link, since some horses seemed more prone than others. Possibly the same may be true with humans.
    DEAR READER: I'm always fascinated to learn of diseases and disorders in animals that may also be present in humans. Baking soda appears to have helped you with your Monday Morning disease, without significant side effects, so I agree with your plan of using it when needed. Thanks for writing.
    To give you related information, I am sending you a free copy of my Health Report "Help: Physical Illness." Other readers who would like a copy should send a long, self-addressed, stamped envelope and $2 to Newsletter, PO Box 167, Wickliffe, OH 44092-0167. Be sure to mention the title.
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