Ticks on Children - What Should You Do?

With the Lowcountry thriving in what ticks love (shady, moist areas including tall grass, brush, and woods), don’t be surprised if you run into a few of these from time to time.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention created the following quick reference sheet titled Tick Bite – What to Do.  It is an excellent source of information.

Pediatrician, Dr. Susan Kressley has also written excellent information below on what to do if and when you find a tick on your child.

Finding a tick on your child can be frightening, however most ticks do not carry diseases and you can learn what to do at home. Finding a tick on your child is not a medical emergency and should not require a trip to the emergency room or urgent care. If you have questions, always start by contacting our office during regular hours, or the physician on call when the office is closed.

While it’s a good idea to take preventive measures against ticks, it’s especially important to be extra vigilant in warmer months when ticks are most active. If you are hiking in wooded areas, walk in the center of trails, use clothing as a cover and apply appropriate repellent to skin and clothing.

Most tick-born illnesses require a tick to be attached for > 24 hours. One of the best things you can do is to check your child every night and remove any ticks you find. It’s important to understand that most dog ticks do not cause any health problems in our region. You should know the difference between a dog tick and a deer tick. Only the blacked legged tick (Ixodes scapularis) transmits Lyme.

If you do find a tick, you want to remove it as quickly as possible. Avoid techniques to “smoother” the tick. Instead use a tweezer/forceps to grasp near the attachment and pull upward with steady, even pressure. Avoid twisting as you may break the tick apart. If this happens and you are unable to remove the mouth parts easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal. If you are out and don’t have access to a tweezers, many people have been successful using a credit card.

Clean the area well with soap and water or alcohol and watch for local infection. Mark the date on your calendar and watch for any concerning symptoms over the subsequent 4-6 weeks such as the typical circular rash of Lyme disease, joint pain, swollen joints that may not be painful, unexplained fevers or headaches. The rash may be at the site of the bite or remotely (check the hair/scalp too!) Remember only deer ticks transmit Lyme disease.

We do not test ticks, so do not save it for us to “study” the tick. If you want to take a picture (next to a ruler helps for sizing!) if you are not sure what kind of tick, that’s fine. We may find it useful to help make decisions. However, we recommend that you flush or discard the tick. Do not crush them.

For more information, visit the CDC’s great collection of information!