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Health & Safety

Kids and Tick Bites: How to Stay Safe

Ticks are everywhere this summer—here’s what you need to know

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If it feels like everyone is freaking out about ticks this summer, you’re not imagining things. This spring, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predicted that the summer of 2017 would be one of the worst yet for ticks and tick-borne diseases. And it looks like their crystal ball was accurate, thanks in part to a mild winter.

Adding to concerns about tick-borne Lyme disease (which, if untreated, can cause joint pain and heart issues) are recent reports of the Powassan virus. Although it’s still very rare, this tick-borne disease can be severe, causing flu-like symptoms and even in some cases, brain swelling. While there's no need to limit outdoor fun, take these precautions first:

1. Use repellent. Most repellents are safe to use on kids over 2 months old, according to the CDC, which recommends products that contain at least 20 percent DEET, picaridin, or the repellent IR3535 to ward off ticks. Skip products that combine sunscreen and repellent since sunscreen needs to be reapplied more frequently. Also avoid putting repellent on kids' hands (since hands often go straight into their mouth) and watch out for the ingredient oil of lemon eucalyptus—which is not safe for kids under three.  

2. Cover up.“When you know you’ll be in ‘tick country,’ wear long sleeves, pants and socks you can pull up over the bottom of your pants legs,” recommends Patrician Salber, M.D., founder of The Doctor Weighs In. “And wear a hat with a wide brim or one that provides a flap to cover the neck.”

3. Check for ticks when you get home. “Be sure to run your fingers through the hair, particularly at the nape of the neck,” says Dr. Salber. “Don’t forget to examine the inside and behind the ears, in the groin area, behind the knees, and even the belly button.”  

4. Don't panic if you find one. After taking a quick pic to show your doctor, use tweezers to remove the tick, grabbing the base of the tick near the skin and gently pulling it out. “If you accidentally leave the mouth parts in the skin, don’t dig them out. The body will eventually expel them,” says Dr. Salber. Clean the bite area with soap and water and save the tick (place it in a container in the freezer) to bring to your doctor for testing, making note of when and where the bite may have occurred. All of this info will help your doctor determine if follow-up treatment is needed.

5. Watch for symptoms. If you've been in an area with ticks, be sure to call your doctor if you spot symptoms in your child like a fever, aches, or a "bullseye" rash, all of which  that can be a sign of Lyme disease infection.