Tick bites

Time to get out and enjoy the warm weather.  That means, of course, concerns about insect bites generally and especially tick bites and lyme disease.  Let’s take some time to consider these topics.

First, let’s keep in mind that ticks can cause a variety of potentially serious ailments besides lymes: babesiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Q fever (caused by bacteria called Borellia), as well as erlichiosis and tick born paralysis (caused by tick produced toxin).  Please be reassured that these are all unusual and typically treatable problems.  We should also keep in mind that it is actually quite hard to contract these infections.  A tick must be attached for > 36 hours before the transmission of lymes occurs, so the infection rate for lyme is only 1.2-1.4% even in areas where the disease is common.  Erlichiosis infection rate is 1.8%.

This is what lyme causing ticks look like.

Steps to avoid tick bites;

  • Be cautious about outdoor activity early or late in the day–the bugs are more active then
  • Avoid walking in high grass or thick vegetation
  • Wear long sleeves and pants when weather permits.
  • Light colored clothing so that crawling insects are seen more easily
  • Use insect repellants with 20-30% DEET for several hours of protection
  • Try to shower within 2 hours of returning indoors.  This can wash off both DEET and stray insects
  • Examine children as thoroughly as possbile at the end of the day after outdoor activity
  • Check outdoor gear, toys, as well as pets to avoid transporting insects indoors
  • Tumble clothes in dryer at high heat for 1 hour to kill stray ticks

To remove ticks:

  • Use tweezers to grab tick as close to skin as possible
  • Use gentle, firm, steady traction to remove insect.  Don’t bend or twist.
  • If you are unsuccessful in removing the head it is best to leave it alone.  With warm soaks your child’s body will likely expel the foreign body naturally
  • Don’t burn or crush tick as this may cause the insect to expel infection containing body fluids as it is dying
  • Don’t cover tick with vaseline to smother it.  They are pretty hardy critters.  Some studies suggest that they can live weeks without oxygen.  The goal is to remove the tick promptly.
  • Wash the wound off with soap and water which is the best antiseptic in the house for all open wounds

Please don’t forget that only ticks that are embedded in the skin can transmit infection, and usually those should be engorged with blood.  Little buggies crawling along on your kid’s skin are not any risk.

There is more to address on this topic, so we can return to it next time.  Please send along questions or comments, and thanks for following.


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