Picture this – a scene of high drama:

Beautiful Japanese girl running out of the Australian bush, flustered, panic stricken, maybe even a few tears.  She spots the rendezvous vehicle parked up in the shade under a sprawling eucalypt and quickens her pace, discarding her empty PET bottle and the stick she’s been constantly beating it with to ward of snakes, during her five or so kilometre mercy dash through the heat of a midsummer afternoon.

– Robin! she cries.

– Oh! G’day, you’re back, he smiles, no doubt recognising the panic in the tone of her voice but remaining calm, reclining in the vehicle’s driver seat, peering up over half moon spectacles, newspaper in hand.

– Robin!  It’s Willie.

Oh dear, it’s his lad, he’s heard this one a few times before.

– Oh yes? What’s happened? He was getting too old for this kind of thing.

–  He’s got a scrabbletits.

Well that was something new at least.

–  A what? He lets out a bit of a chuckle.

– A scrabbletits!

– A scrabbletits? I thought tits were tits, he smiles…

Or so, I’m led to believe, is how the conversation went.

Now, what the hell’s a scrabbletits?

Some sort of sub-tropical complaint where the alphabet spontaneously appears on the sufferer’s breast.

No, no.  Not at all.  Rather, this incident can be put down to a simple case of Chinese whispers or, Japanese whispers, as happens to be the case in this instance.

Let’s wind the clock back, say an hour or so and get to the bottom of this little mystery spawned high up on the western escarpment of Queensland’s Bunya Mountains.  A spur of hills, volcanic in origin, set off to the west of the main Great Divide, the range running the length of the eastern seaboard and separating the narrow strip of coastal land from that of the drier interior.

It was lunch time.

The Missus, our heroine from the opening scene, and the Kid and I settled down at the unlikely monickered spot of Cherry Plain, a name more suited to the land from which we’d ventured for our Christmas hiatus, rather than the scraggily bit of wattle and eucalypt bush we’d found ourselves in.  Something poked into my upper thigh as I moved to settle down.  It had been a long morning’s hike.  Some ten or so clicks under our belts, through sub tropical rainforest and and drier eucalypt country.  A bit of spear grass in my shorts wasn’t standing between me and my ham and salad sangas nestling in my lap.  Later, as we moved out, the golden wattle swaying overhead in an afternoon breeze, I copped another jab in the same spot and going the grope, in order to remove the offending sprig, I laid fingertips on something a little more dire, cosying up in my sweaty underpants and about to settle in for a lunch of its own.

-Yaahhh!  What is it? She gasped staring at the little bud shaped creature stuck, proboscis first into my white fleshy upper thigh.

– I believe that is what you call a scrub tick.

– A what?

– Scrub tick.

She went to pull it out.

– No! You can’t do that!  You’ll squeeze its poison into me.

Technically, I believe it is actually bacteria ridden saliva that cause all the complications (ranging from flu like symptoms to paralysis) but whatever, the sight of some little critter feasting on her man and the mention of poison had her in fits. I wasn’t overly concerned, as far as I’ve always known, when you hit the scrub all you do is check yourself when you pull up stumps at the end of the day and that being the case it seemed the thing wasn’t going to have me rolling round frothing at the mouth anytime soon.

We checked the Kid.

There was one on the back of his shirt, yet to latch on.  I flicked it off.

– Oh, I’m going to go and get Robin, that was enough for her.

– Don’t worry it’ll be fine.

– What’s it called again?

– A scrub tick.

– Su-cu-rabu-tiku.  She repeated it slowly, all Japanese emphasis in the wrong places. Over the course of a five kilometre mercy dash through the bush, distracted by visions of a place crawling with bloodthirsty critters and malicious venom spewing vipers, we can assume the process of committing the critters name to memory evolved something like this:

– Su-cu-rabu tiku

– Scra-bu-tikusu

– Scrabu-lu-titsu

– Scrabble-titsu

– Scrabbletits.

Anyway, all’s well that ends well right? I burnt the little bugger off back at the car with the aid of the dashboard cigarette lighter – the Old Man suggesting I should just scrape it off with his pocket knife.  Turns out both ways are ill-advised methods and according to the Department of Medical Entomology at the University of Sydney one should:


…never attempt to place any chemical such as methylated spirits onto the tick, nor should it be touched or disturbed, as the tick will inject saliva into the skin, which could make the situation worse. Rather the tick should be sprayed with an aerosol insect repellent preferably containing pyrethrin or a pyrethroid (if a repellent cannot be found which contains a pyrethroid, then Lyclear, a scabies cream containing permethrin will work fine). The combination of hydrocarbons and the pyrethrin acts as a narcotic and a toxicant, and prevents the tick from injecting its saliva. The tick should be sprayed again one minute later (or dabbed with the Lyclear) and left. After 24 hours it should drop off naturally or be gently removed with fine-tipped forceps. It is normal for a tick bite to remain slightly itchy for several weeks, however if other symptoms develop, then a doctor should be consulted immediately.

 So now you know.

Source:  Scrub Tick Removal:


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