Ticks are tiny round insects that live in wooded areas infested with mice or deer populations. A tick attaches itself onto the skin of humans or other hosts drinking blood, much like that of a mosquito, except that it doesn’t hurt until after it has bitten and infected the host. Children almost never know when a tick bites them. Most ticks don’t carry parasites for Lyme and other diseases, but if you live in areas having lot of rodents or deer, it is always better to keep an eye on children especially if they go out in the woods.
Measures to prevent tick bites
- Dress the child in long sleeves and light colored clothing.
- Make sure the pants are tucked into the socks.
- Use mild insect repellents on clothes and exposed parts of the body.
- Check the child’s skin to ensure there is no tick latched on to it.
- Wash the clothes, socks and any headgear to remove ticks that may have latched on to the clothes.
- Ticks like to hideout in nooks of skin like in between fingers, groin area, armpits and in the skin between the toes. Check these areas thoroughly and remove all the ticks that you find. Watch out for fever, malaise, and other signs like rashes etc. If these do occur, promptly have the child treated by a doctor. (The signs and symptoms of Lyme disease in children are described in detail below.)
Tick bite symptoms in children
Despite taking precautionary measures, children could still get bitten by ticks. If you have failed to find a tick or failed to completely remove a tick with a pair of tweezers, check for the following symptoms.
- A slight itching around the bitten area.
- A red rash surrounded by a pale circle looking much like a bull’s eye on various parts of the skin.
- After a couple of weeks, fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue might occur.
- Sometimes, a rash may be present ankles and wrists.
- After a few weeks, the child might complain of muscle pains, or pains in the joints.
- The child may become unusually lethargic. Lethargy is induced by any one of the diseases transmitted by ticks (Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Fever, Tularemia etc).
First aid for tick bites symptoms in children
- An infected tick is likely to cause illness only after the first 24 hours. So, as soon as you spot a tick, carefully remove the tick with a pair of tweezers and use alcohol swab to clean the area.
- Try to remove the tick completely. If you crush the tick with the tweezers, the tick’s blood might mix with your child’s blood. So, call a doctor immediately.
- If you remove the tick but its mouthparts are still lodged in the skin, remove them like you would remove a wood splinter. Do not poke around as this might end up pushing it deeper into the skin.
- If the pathogens/bacteria have already entered the blood stream, the child could develop symptoms of Lyme disease or any one of the other diseases (mentioned above) in a couple of weeks and, in rare cases, even in a few months.
- Once you remove the tick, wash your hands with soap water.
- Clean the affected area with soap water too.
- Do not get an antibiotic prescription until after you see specific disease symptoms. Ticks transmit mountain fever, tularemia and other diseases apart from Lyme disease. Besides, antibiotics for Lyme disease are only effective only after the disease has progressed enough to produce symptoms.
It is said that prevention is better than cure, but ticks are tiny insects and prevention is harder than it sounds. So, keep an eye on your child if he/she has recently been in the woods and go to a doctor if you see symptoms of any tick transmitted diseases mentioned here. A few weeks course of antibiotics cures most diseases transmitted by ticks. Being aware of these diseases caused by ticks is huge help when symptoms occur as late as six months.