Avoiding and Treating Ticks

If your family spends a lot of time outdoors, you probably already know how to remove a tick and treat any bites. But ticks flourish in the summer, so even the occasional hike or weekend by the lake means you should check for these pests in the warm months.

In addition to general unpleasantness, some ticks carry the bacteria responsible for Lyme disease. Though it can be treated with antibiotics, Lyme disease may cause long-term symptoms if left untreated. The first sign of Lyme disease is a localized rash that starts as a reddish circle and expands over time. The rash may be the only symptom, but aches, fever, fatigue and/or swollen glands can also occur.

“If your child has a rash, we encourage you to call your pediatrician’s office,” says Dr. Larry Jones at East Louisville Pediatrics. “Rashes can happen on their own, but they can also be an early warning sign. Always tell us about recent possible causes like insect bites.”

To avoid Lyme disease and ticks in general, some practical tips are listed below:

  • Ticks do not drop from trees or jump on people. They typically wait in groundcover for a host to brush by them. If you visit a forest, a wooded or marshy area near water, or you walk through long grass, wear socks and close-toed shoes to protect the area where ticks are most likely to latch on. Depending on your activity, you may also consider protective clothing, a hat, and/or pulling long hair into a ponytail.
  • Insect repellant is effective against ticks and should contain no more than 30% DEET for use on kids. Ticks also dislike some natural smells including lemon and peppermint.
  • Once you’re inside, do a body check for ticks on yourself and your kid(s). Take time to look at the hairline and scalp carefully, but don’t forget to look everywhere else too.
  • If you need to remove a tick, do not use a lighter or matches, especially on children. Carefully grasp the head with tweezers and slowly pull the tick straight out. Do not use a twisting or jerking movement. Never crush a tick with your fingers as this will spread bacteria. Once it’s removed, clean the area with rubbing alcohol or soap and water. In the following days, watch for signs of infection or additional ticks.