Prevention is key to tick bites. Here are the best tips as well as what to do if a tick is found on your child, plus, what you want to avoid.
Ticks are out in full force all across the country and are on the forefront of the minds of parents as they explore nature with their children. Prevention is key when protecting children from tick bites in addition to prompt treatment upon bites. Below are expert tips for preventing tick bites and taking precaution against diseases such as Lyme’s.
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The DOs and DON’Ts of Managing and Avoiding Tick Bites in Kids
These tips are from Dr. Jorge Parada, Medical Advisor for the National Pest Management Association. I had the opportunity to speak with him to get the scoop on what we, as moms, REALLY should be doing to help avoid tick bites in kids.
I love to get out with my kids to go on hikes, we regularly attend Free Forest School and I lead local Tinkergarten classes. All of this is a great recipe for quality outdoor time with kids, as well as an increase in the likelihood of tick bites. There are many traditional and unconventional treatments for avoiding tick bites as well as removing a tick and the treatment of bites. Here are the DOs and DON’Ts you need to know.
5 Tips for Avoiding Tick Bites
The prevalence of ticks has more than tripled, and when dealing with ticks and kids, prevention is definitely key. Here are 5 tips to follow:
1. Insect repellant should definitely be used. This is among the best prevention, and there are many various kinds of repellants that you can choose from to suit your family’s needs.
Dr. Parada recommends finding a repellant that is EPA approved, you can use the search tool here to find those with ingredients that you prefer. This is the DEET-FREE repellant that I use with my own kids and have had success with, in addition to treating our forest school clothing with Permethrin.
2. Use proper attire. While it may be hot out, covering the skin is certainly one of the best ways to avoid tick bites. Opt for lightweight long pants and long sleeves along with boots (a rash guard can be perfect for this as it covers the skin and also protects from UV rays). Tucking the pants into the top of the socks can keep the ticks from crawling inside pant legs.
I like to use a full body, lightweight and waterproof outfit such as a Muddy Buddy to put over the kids shorts and tank tops to cover their skin without being too warm. Bonus, they are great for puddles and creeks.
3. Never skip the tick check. NEVER. This is for sure a must do after being outside, for you and the kids. If you spend a lot of time outdoors, even just in parks or a walk around the block, a tick check is critical. At some level, even if following all of these tips, a tick bite might be inevitable.
However, in almost all cases, it takes 24-48 hours for a tick to transmit diseases, therefore, a tick check can help you identify any ticks and remove them long before this period. Check out this article for some places you definitely want to make sure you don’t miss.
4. Seal your house. Sealing cracks in your house and windows and repairing screens will reduce the chance of ticks getting inside your home (additionally getting rid of any stagnant water in the yard to help with mosquitoes).
5. Hire a pest professional. It might be a good idea to hire a pest professional to treat your yard for ticks. This will keep your kids safe and protected when playing in your backyard. PestWorld.org is a great resource for finding which insects are prevalent in your area and where you can hire a local pest professional.
The Best Way to Remove a Tick (and what NOT to do)
If you find a tick on you or your child, don’t panic. As mentioned above, it takes 24-48 hours for a tick to transmit disease. Therefore, there is time.
“Tweezers, tweezers, tweezers” This is Dr. Jorge Parada’s advice for removing a tick. There are many old wives tales such as burning the tick out, but these are NOT best practice. Devices such as tick keys and tick twisters operate like tweezers but can make the job a bit easier, but as most families have tweezers in their home, this is a fine option.
When using tweezers, grab the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull back gently but firmly. Ensure that you have removed the head and mouthparts from the skin.
What to do after tick bites.
After the tick has been removed, clean the area with soap and water, and watch for infection.
What to look for:
The surest sign to look for in Lyme’s will be a rash that appears in a circular bullseye, if a rash appears around the tick bite site, seek immediate medical attention. In addition to the rash, common symptoms include aches, pains, joint pain and neck stiffness.
However, this classic rash doesn’t appear in any other infection, therefore, if your child seems sick with flu-like symptoms or body, muscle and joint pain, you will want to see a doctor as well.
In summary, tick prevention is key and the best tips are to use insect repellant, wear proper attire, do tick checks and protect your house from insects. Additionally, if a tick is found, remove it with tweezers and monitor for signs of infection or tick-transmitted diseases. A huge thanks to Dr. Parada for the best tips on avoiding tick bites and caring for them.
Dr. Jorge Parada Bio
Jorge P. Parada, MD, MPH, FACP, FIDSA, is the medical advisor for the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), the medical director of the Loyola University Medical System Infection Control Program in Chicago, Illinois, and an associate professor of medicine at the university’s Stritch School of Medicine. He is also a senior research associate at the Center for Management of Complex Chronic Care at Hines Veterans Affairs (VA) Hospital in Hines, Illinois.
After earning his medical degree at the Lisbon Medical School in Portugal, Dr. Parada remained in Lisbon to complete a medical–surgical residency and to train at the Institute for Tropical Medicine. He completed additional residency training in internal medicine at the State University of New York at Stony Brook an Northport VA Medical Center. Dr. Parada went on to obtain a masters degree in public health from Harvard University while completing an infectious diseases fellowship at Boston University. He also completed a health services research outcomes fellowship at Rush University and Cook County Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, before joining the faculty of Loyola University in 1999.
Dr. Parada’s research interests include hospital epidemiology, emergency preparedness, and infection control with an emphasis on process of care variables related to Clostridium difficile-associated disease, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection, and device-related infections. Outcomes from his work have been published in such notable journals as Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, Journal of Infection, and Clinical Infectious Diseases. Dr. Parada has also served as course director for the Chicago Medical Society and the Chicago Department of Public Health’s programs on emergency preparedness for bioterrorism, pandemic/avian influenza, and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
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