Ticks. Just the word can make your skin crawl.
In addition to the “ick” factor, ticks and the diseases they carry can be a serious threat to kids’ health and need to be diagnosed and treated as quickly and completely as possible.
BEFORE GOING OUT
Use insect repellent and wear long sleeves and pants while in wooded areas. Insect repellent with up to 30 percent DEET (an active ingredient in insect repellents) is safe even for babies as young as two months.
HOW TO LOOK FOR TICKS
Stand your kids in the shape of a “T,” arms out, and look over the entire surface area of the body. Ticks love to hide in the folds of skin: behind ears, knees, at the waistline and in the hair. Removing ticks as rapidly as possible decreases the chances you’ll get sick.
IF YOU FIND A TICK
Use tweezers or your fingers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible, then pull it off firmly. Remove everything, especially the head. Try not to squeeze the tick’s body as that can cause the tick to discharge its stomach contents (and potentially germs) into the person.
WATCH FOR A RASH
Not all ticks carry Lyme disease. If you do see a rash, go see a doctor. It could mean either Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) or Lyme disease, depending on where you live. The rash in RMSF often begins on the wrists and ankles. In Lyme disease, the rash usually arises at the site of the tick bite and is described as looking like a “bull’s eye,” or red with central clearing. Other tick bites can cause tick paralysis, where the person is literally paralyzed until the tick is removed.
SOMETHING NEW TO LOOK OUT FOR
There’s a new tick-related illness to be aware of: the Powassan virus. Weather conditions this spring have been favorable to tick reproduction and survival, and so more ticks carrying this virus are circulating. Symptoms are similar to the other tick-borne illnesses: fever, vomiting, headache, weakness and sometimes confusion and neurological problems. Since this is a viral infection and not a bacterial one, there is no specific treatment other than supportive care and hydration.
The best advice is to prevent these bites altogether. Otherwise, be on guard and do regular checks of your kids (and your pets!) after they come in from an afternoon outside. Don’t let these little buggers ruin the best months of the year.
Dr. Christina Johns is senior medical advisor for PM Pediatrics, the largest provider of pediatric urgent care in the country, with more than 30 child-friendly locations across NY, NJ, Long Island, CT, PA and D.C.