As warm weather approaches (rather early this year!), we know that kids will be playing outside. Here in Westport and in the surrounding towns, wooded areas are home to deer … and along with the deer come deer ticks. So Willows Pediatrics thought it would be a good idea to review our recommendations on tick bites and Lyme disease today.
We have an excellent article on tick bites on our blog, and we encourage you to read it thoroughly. In essence, we recommend that parents or caregivers do a daily inspection for ticks. The reason daily checks are important is because we know that a tick must be on the body for 36-48 hours to pass any illness to humans. If a tick is promptly found and removed, Lyme can be prevented.
If you find a tick, remove it using tweezers. (We suggest you purchase a pair of fine-nosed tweezers specifically for this purpose.) Grab the base of the tick against the skin with and steadily pull the tick out. Don’t worry if part of the head, or part of a limb cannot be removed, as the disease-carrying portion of a tick is the abdomen. After removing the tick you can keep the bite area clean with soap and water and apply a topical antibiotic for a few days.
We suggest you mark the date of the tick removal and the location of the bite on a calendar and watch the area. You do not need to save the tick
In the early stages of Lyme disease (typically 7-14 days after the bite) a red, circular rash may appear. The rash is generally flat, red, usually not itchy, and about the size of a half dollar. Along with the rash, symptoms like the flu (fever, fatigue, headache, muscle/joint aches and neck stiffness) can also occur. Over a period of a few days the rash expands and new areas of rash may develop too. If your child has these findings associated with Lyme disease, please contact us for an examination.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recently published a thorough article on Lyme disease. One of the most important things we take away from their recommendations is that giving antibiotics to prevent Lyme disease in a child who is well but on whom a tick was found is not recommended.
In our opinion, prevention is the key. Daily tick checks are invaluable and are the best method of preventing Lyme. Tick bites are usually painless, so you can’t count on your child to complain about a bite; you will have to look for ticks to know they are there. Studies have shown that most cases of Lyme Disease come from undetected tick bites, reminding us how important prompt detection and removal of attached ticks is. Ticks in the nymph stage are especially small, and you will have to look at your child’s skin and scalp very carefully.
Here are some additional tips from the AAP on how to prevent tick bites and infection:
Keep your child away from tick-infested areas as much as possible. When she’s outdoors, she should stay on cleared trails and away from overgrown grass and brush. In high-risk areas, take the following precautions:
Dress your child in light colored clothing – long-sleeved shirt and long pants to cover his or her arms, legs, and other exposed areas as much as possible. Pants should be tucked into socks or boots, and long-sleeved shirts should be buttoned at the cuff. It is best to wear a hat and closed-toe shoes, especially in densely wooded areas.
You can spray a chemical called permethrin onto your child’s clothing. It can kill ticks on contact. Do not spray permethrin directly on the skin.
A number of other tick and insect repellents available can be applied directly to your child’s skin. Choose a product that contains a substance called DEET (diethyltoluamide). Apply it every 1 to 2 hours for maximum protection. Follow the instructions on the label, and use the product lightly on your child’s face and hands. Do not use the repellent on any irritated skin or open sores.
Once your child has come indoors, wash his or her skin with soap and water to remove the repellent. At the same time, take a couple of minutes to inspect your child’s body and clothing for the presence of ticks. They may hide behind her ears or attach themselves to the hair on her head and the back of her neck. If your child is wearing light-colored clothing, it will be easier to spot any ticks that may be present.
Pets may bring ticks into the house and should be inspected if they have been outdoors in tick-infested areas. Treatments to prevent ticks on pets can be obtained from your veterinarian.
We would also like to point out that the Connecticut Agricultural Station has a very helpful summary of tick repellents. Also, while the product Skin so Soft may offer a brief period of protection against mosquito bites, please note that the Connecticut Agricultural Station states it does not stop ticks from biting.
In summary, we cannot emphasize enough the importance of checking for ticks each night. In the event that a tick is not found within 36 hours and symptoms of Lyme disease develop, please contact us for evaluation and possible treatment. Good luck, and enjoy your time outside!