It's that time of year again. The days are getting longer; the air is getting warmer. All of Earth's living things are shedding the sleepy haze of winter and blooming, bursting, leaping, skipping, or galloping back to life. Of course, that goes for kids, too. As soon as the last stubborn snowflake melts quietly on the windowpane, children of all ages are throwing their winter coats and snow-boots in a disorderly pile by the front door and instead donning their bike-helmets and arming themselves with jump-ropes and sidewalk chalk. Spring is finally here. Unfortunately, with warmer weather and the promise of outdoor adventures comes the rather uncomfortable risk of ticks. Don't keep the kids inside or allow them to play outdoors only if they're covered in bubble-wrap, though--there are a few simple tips that can keep kids safe from ticks.
The most common types of ticks are dog ticks and wood ticks, and they're the nasty little creatures you're most likely picturing when you imagine ticks in general. However, there is another type of tick, the infamous deer tick, which looks like a brown or reddish-orange sesame seed and grows much larger when filled with human blood. But that's not all. Deer ticks carry Lyme disease, an unpleasant infection which attacks the skin, nervous systems, joints, and more. While it is most common by the sea and in the Midwest, Lyme disease can spread to other parts of the U.S.; however, since the infection takes 36 hours to pass from tick to human, daily checking of the skin and body should help prevent deer ticks and Lyme disease.
So, how can you avoid ticks when the kids are running in every direction, rolling in the grass, climbing the trees, and exposing themselves to ticks at every possible interval? Let our Family Medicine experts provide some quick and easy tips.
- Get the facts. Before you can launch any avoidance mission, you have to know the enemy. Ticks live in short plants like grasses, and they especially like to stay at the edges of heavily-wooded areas. This means that sticking to the center of the trail when hiking or walking will help prevent ticks. Similarly, knowing what ticks look like will help you spot them; light-colored clothing makes the brown or reddish-orange color of the ticks stand out.
- Daily tick check. It may sound exhausting, and the kids certainly won't like it, but daily tick checks are crucial. Take special care to check areas like the scalp, the back of the knees, and the armpits--smaller places where ticks are more likely to feel safe and hidden--and remember that deer ticks can be tiny, so be sure to check carefully.
- Tick removal. If you do spot a tick, it's important to know how to remove it properly. With a pair of tweezers, begin to pull upward steadily, careful not to jerk the tick's body. After the tick is gone, clean the area carefully and, for the next 30 days, watch for any signs of a rash--and also keep an eye out for red circular "bull's-eye" rashes, as well as fever, headache, fatigue, and more.
Interested in more tick tips? Looking for Family Medicine experts? Contact us today!