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2022 Oct

How to Prevent Tick Bites

Tips to keep ticks at bay.

Please check your kids for ticks after they have been outside. Tick checks can detect ticks before they attach and spread disease. Ticks cannot fly, so they must attach when someone brushes against them. Keeping the grass mowed is also helpful. Advise your children to avoid areas with tall grass.

Dress your child to avoid ticks by placing them in long pants and long sleeves (weather appropriately). Tuck the shirt into the pants. Tuck the pants into the socks and into the boots or closed-toe shoes. Consider mosquito netting over strollers.

Examine boots, bags, and clothing when they come inside. Check your child’s entire body from head to toe. Shower them after they have played outside to wash off unattached ticks. Wash clothing in hot water and tumble dry on high heat for at least 10 minutes to kill ticks that remain on clothing.

If you find a tick, do not panic. Use clean fine-tipped tweezers and grasp the base of the tick. Pull straight up with steady pressure, avoiding twisting or jerking the tick. After removing the tick, wash the area and your hands with soap and water, then disinfect both the area and your hand with rubbing alcohol. Do not crush the tick, but place it in a sealed plastic bag or container with rubbing alcohol.

Ticks can cause many diseases including Lyme disease. In the United States. 476,000 people are treated for Lyme disease each year. Lyme disease is present all year; however, April through October is prime season for Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness, transmitted by the deer tick (blacklegged tick). The risk is higher if the tick is attached for at least 24 hours. The longer the tick is attached, the greater the risk of disease transmission. This is why it is important to do a daily tick check on your children. Removing ticks promptly reduces the risk of Lyme disease.

Lyme disease may present with a rash within 3 to 30 days of the tick bite. Sometimes it has a bulls-eye appearance. There may be fever, headache, chills, fatigue (tiredness), and achy muscles or joints.

It is important to treat this disease early. If not diagnosed and treated, the disease can lead to more serious complications. Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics. See your child’s pediatric healthcare provider if you have concerns related to tick bites or Lyme disease.

Insect repellents decrease both tick and mosquito bites, but they can cause health issues if used improperly (which concerns me). They do not kill insects but repel biting insects (but not stinging insects).

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), there are insect repellents that are approved as safe for children but should be used only once per day. These include 10-30 percent DEET (for children 2 months and older), 10 percent picaridin (for children 2 months and older), and 0.5 percent permethrin (apply ONLY to clothing—do not apply to skin, for toddlers and older). Insect repellents are not safe for infants less than 2 months of age.

The length of protection (effectiveness) of the insect repellent varies based on the strength of the product. Higher concentrations increase the length of protection, rather than how well the child is protected. Choose the lowest concentration that will be effective based on the amount of time outdoors.

Place the insect repellent on exposed skin only (not underneath clothing) and to the outside of clothing. Avoid putting insect repellent on infants and children’s hands and face, as they place their hands in their mouth. Do not allow children to apply any insect repellent themselves. Do not spray the product directly on your child’s face. If you must apply it to their face, first spray it on your hands, then apply, carefully avoiding the eyes, nose, and mouth. Avoid the inhalation of an insect repellent (try not to breathe it in).

Do not use sprays on broken skin or around food. Wash the product off your child with soap and water as soon as you are inside and launder clothing. The AAP does not recommend combination sunscreen/insect repellant products, as insect repellant is used only once daily, but sunscreen should be reapplied every 2 hours.

Although these medications are considered safe and effective for children when used properly, consider the risks and benefits of using any medication on a child and speak to your child’s pediatric healthcare provider before using any medication. Never use a higher concentration than 30 percent DEET on your child.

Read and follow all label directions. Rarely these products can cause rashes. If you note a rash, stop using the product and bathe the child with soap and water immediately. DEET is toxic if swallowed. Call poison help at 1-800-222-1222 or dial 911 if your child is having an emergent event.

Prevent tick bites, perform daily tick checks, remove ticks promptly, and seek urgent medical care for any tick-related rash or symptoms. Help to decrease Lyme disease.

Melanie J. Wilhelm, DNP, CPNP

Dr. Melanie J. Wilhelm, DNP, CPNP, is a Doctor of Nursing Practice, and a Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner as well as core faculty member at Walden University. Her book, Raising Today’s Baby: Second Edition, is available on Amazon.com.

Website: www.RaisingTodaysChild.com

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