Preventing Ticks & Lyme Disease in Children - Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare

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Published on June 29, 2015

Preventing Ticks & Lyme Disease in Children

By Kimberly Little, MD, Family Medicine Physician with Wheaton Franciscan Medical Group

Summer in Wisconsin means warm weather and lots of fun in the great outdoors. It can also mean an increased threat of ticks and Lyme disease.

How to prevent tick bites

While this might make you think that your kids would be safer playing indoors, it’s important to note that a child's risk of getting Lyme disease after being bitten by a tick is only about 1 to 3 percent.

Handling Tick Bites

Be sure to check both kids and pets for ticks carefully after you've been in or around a wooded area. Ticks removed within 24 to 48 hours are less likely to transmit diseases like Lyme disease. Common types of ticks include dog ticks and deer ticks (deer ticks may be carriers of Lyme disease).

If You find a Tick on Your Child

Don’t panic. Call your doctor, who may want you to save the tick in a sealed container or zip-locked bag for identification later.

  • Use tweezers to grasp the tick firmly at its head or mouth, next to the skin.
  • Pull firmly and steadily upward on the tick until it lets go (do not twist or jerk the tick), then swab the bite site with alcohol.
  • Don't use petroleum jelly or a lit match to kill and remove a tick. These methods don't get the tick off the skin, and may cause the insect to burrow deeper and release more saliva (which increases the chances of disease transmission).

Symptoms of Lyme Disease

Lyme disease can affect different body systems, such as the nervous system, joints, skin and heart. Symptoms are often described as happening in three stages (although not everyone experiences all three):

  1. A circular-shaped rash that can be pink in the center and a deeper red on the surrounding skin. It resembles a bulls-eye pattern.
  2. Several days or weeks after a bite from an infected tick, flu-like symptoms can appear, including headache, stiff neck, aches and pains in muscles and joints, low-grade fever and chills, fatigue, poor appetite, and swollen glands.
  3. After several months, painful and swollen joints may occur.

Having such a wide range of symptoms can make Lyme disease difficult for doctors to diagnose, although certain blood tests can be done to look for evidence of the body's reaction to Lyme disease.

Preventing Lyme Disease

While there's no surefire way to avoid getting tick bites or Lyme disease, you can minimize your family's risk.

If you or your kids spend a lot of time outdoors, take precautions:

  • Wear enclosed shoes or boots, long-sleeved shirts, and long pants. Tuck pant legs into shoes or boots to prevent ticks from crawling up legs.
  • Use an insect repellant containing 10% to 30% DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide).
  • Wear light-colored clothing to help you see ticks more easily.
  • Keep long hair pulled back or tucked in a cap for protection.
  • Don't sit on the ground outside.
  • Check for ticks regularly — both indoors and outdoors. Wash clothes and hair after leaving tick-infested areas.

For More Information

If you need a primary care physician, Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare can help! Use our physician finder to search for a doctor who's right for you and your family. 

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Preventing Ticks & Lyme Disease in Children