Tick Bites-How to Protect Yourselves and Your Kids!

Tick /tik/: noun
any of a superfamily arachnids that are larger than the related mites, attach themselves to warm-blooded vertebrates to feed and include important vectors of infectious diseases

Summer is here! That means no homework, lots of sunshine, free time with your kids, splashing around at the beach…and bites. Insect bites that are annoying, itchy and can cause disease. When tick bites are talked about in the news, it usually refers to Lyme Disease. However, ticks are responsible for a variety of diseases in the United States mostly during the warmer spring and summer months. While there are tick-borne diseases such as Ehrlichiosis and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF), Lyme Disease is the one of the more common of tick-borne diseases.

Lyme Disease was first ‘discovered’ in the town of Lyme, Connecticut when there was a cluster of children who were thought to have juvenile rheumatoid arthritis due to their joint complaints. It is caused by a bacteria and can cause serious disease in children and teens as well as older adults (>40 y/o). It occurs during the summer months and is found along both East and West Coasts.
From the time of the bite, symptoms usually appear within 7 days but symptoms can sometimes take up to a month to show.
Symptoms are pretty non-specific, such as: fever, fatigue, headache and joint pains.
Lyme Disease usually presents with localized infection presenting as a rash called Erythema Migrans, which usually affects 75%-90% of people who are infected.
The later stages of Lyme Disease are more concerning as they can affect various organs in the body. A few weeks to months after the initial tick bite, symptoms can affect the brain, heart and joints. Months to years later, unfortunately, if left untreated, those infected can exhibit more severe neurological and arthritic symptoms.
Although there are blood tests, we usually do not and cannot wait for these results before starting treatment. Based on the symptoms, your physician will start you on antibiotics, either by mouth or IV, depending on your clinical findings and severity of symptoms.

So how do we prevent tick bites? Starting in April, when temps start to rise down here in the South, I talk to my parents about prevention to protect their children (and themselves) from bites.
• First, if possible, avoid tick-infested areas.
• Avoid touching the vegetation and walk in the middle of trails to minimize contact.
• Wear light-colored clothing with pant legs tucked into your socks and wear long sleeves that buttoned at the wrists.
• Use DEET (link) spray to help repel the ticks. For children under 12, use sprays that contain <30% DEET. For adults sprays should contact <50% DEET. • You can also use permethrin-based repellent to be only on your clothing. • Once inside, check for ticks on your children and yourself. Stand in front of a mirror to do a full check. • Remove all your clothing to wash & dry it. • If you find a tick, remove it immediately using a pair of sharp-tipped tweezers. • Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and slowly pull it straight out to remove it. • Wash your hands and apply a topical antiseptic cream (Neosporin/triple antibiotic) to your skin.

This video has a great tutorial on how to properly remove a tick from your body.

Be sure to take your kids outside this summer to enjoy the fresh air (and leave those electronics at home!) But while enjoying the outdoors, be sure to take the necessary precautions so you can fully enjoy your time in the outdoors.

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