Tips for dealing with ticks

May through October is high tick season

ticks, preventing lyme disease, tick borne diseases

Yes, Spring has sprung and we all want to get outdoors, but let’s remember that the ticks are also out, and the threat of getting Lyme disease increases.  So it’s time for reminders  about taking proper precautions to protect kids from these nasty critters and prevent exposure to ticks which could result in Lyme disease. Children are particularly vulnerable because they’re outside a lot, especially during high deer tick season.

Dr. Jeffrey Horowitz, MD. FAAP, pediatrician at The Herbert Kania Pediatric Group in Warwick, says that although a child’s risk of getting Lyme after being bitten is rare, it’s still vital to know the facts that can increase the risk of getting Lyme disease, especially what to do if your child gets bitten so a full blown infection is averted. “Timing is everything,” says Dr. Horowitz.

When it’s most treatable

If Lyme is diagnosed in the early stages it is highly treatable with a short course of antibiotics, thus preventing it from becoming a chronic condition. He says, “The bacteria is very sensitive to antibiotics,” and adds, “Children treated for early Lyme will be cured with two weeks of oral antibiotics. Most children with later Lyme can be cured with four weeks of oral antibiotic treatment, although some may need IV antibiotics. If a child doesn’t respond to oral antibiotics they should be seen by a pediatric infectious disease specialist.”

Ways to minimize your child’s risk

The key to minimizing the risk of the disease is to avoid ticks, but also understand the different kinds of ticks, and to view them online so you can spot them easily. Deer ticks are about the size of sesame seed, with babies the size of a pinhead.

The Orange County Department of Health offers these key tips for keeping kids safe this summer. 
  • Do a tick check daily, check yourself, your children and pets. Perform a full body search from head to toe at the end of each day or first thing in the morning, especially if pets sleep on beds. Pay special attention to scalp, ears, armpits, groin and behind the knees. Run your fingers over the skin to feel for tiny bumps that may feel like a scab, which may actually be a feeding tick.
  • Avoid areas where ticks are most abundant, including areas around your homes; wooded areas, tall grass, brush and leaf litter. Clear dead or rotting vegetation away from your home, rake fallen leaves.
  • If you go into those areas wear protective clothing, especially  light-colored clothing to spot ticks crawling on you. Tuck shirt into pants and pants into socks. Upon returning do thorough tick check, remove clothing and turn it inside out and put them in the dryer on high heat for twenty minutes to kill any ticks clinging to the fabric. Keep a lint, or tape roller nearby to capture clinging ticks.
  • Ticks should be removed as soon as possible — and carefully.
  • If removed within 24 hours of attaching, the risk of getting Lyme is minimal.
  • Remove plants from your home that attract deer and put barriers around your property to keep deer out.
  • Keep children’s play equipment away from tick havens.
  •  Use insecticides around your property to eliminate pests.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics says it’s okay to use bug repellents containing 10% Deet, but use only once a day on children at least two months or older. Then, be sure to remove the repellent every day with soap and water.
Using bug repellents on children

Dr. Horowitz offers these strict precautions for applying bug repellents containing Deet on children. And, of course, he says, follow all manufacturers precautions.
  • Apply repellent on your own hands first, and then rub onto child. Avoid children’s eyes and mouth and use sparingly around the ears.
  • Do not apply repellent to children hands. (They tend to put their hands in their mouth.)
  • Do not allow young children to apply insect repellent to themselves, have an adult do it for them. Keep repellents out of reach of children.
  • Do not apply repellent to skin under clothing. If applied to clothing, wash clothing before wearing them again.
What do to if you find a tick
  • Remove promptly. Use tweezers to grasp the tick firmly at the head or mouth, next to your skin.
  • Pull firmly and steadily on the tick until it releases from the skin. If you can, place in baggy in case your physicians asks to see it.
  • Swab the site with rubbing alcohol and wash with antibacterial soap.
  • Monitor the site where bitten for the next month; the first sign of infection is usually a circular rash resembling a bull’s eye. Dr. Horowitz says to look out for flu-like symptoms but without the usual respiratory signs. The onset of Lyme can between several days to weeks after bite. If unsure, contact your pediatrician.

Freelance writer, Dawn Marie Barhyte, is a former educator who has taught all levels. She resides in Warwick, NY.