Children are at the highest risk of Lyme disease, especially those ages 3-14 since they love to roll around in the grass, play in leaves, run in wooded areas and explore the great outdoors.
The good news is there are ways you can protect your child from being infected with Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.
1) Do regular tick checks.
A daily check, especially after playing outdoors, is one of the best ways to prevent tick-borne disease. Ticks like to hide in body folds, so pay particular attention to the navel, groin, under the armpits, behind the ears, nape of neck and scalp. Also check where underwear elastic waistbands touch the skin.
2) Check your child’s hair, too.
Ticks are often found in a child’s hair. Run a fine-toothed comb through your child’s hair to check for ticks or run your fingers through their hair and scalp to feel for any bumps.
3) Light clothes are the right clothes.
If your child plays outside in a wooded or tick-infested area, have him wear light-colored clothing so ticks can be spotted more easily. If possible, tuck pants into socks, wear a long-sleeved shirt tucked into pants, and have your child wear a hat.
4) Consider a repellent.
Insect repellents containing DEET and Picardidin can be applied to a child’s exposed skin (though not on their hands or face or on children younger than two months). Pediatricians recommend that products used on children should contain up to 30% DEET or 10% Picaridin. However, those products contain chemicals and many parents prefer to use natural repellents made with plant oils such as citronella, lemongrass or cedarwood. Treat clothes (socks, shorts, pants, shirt, shoes) with an effective tick repellent that kills ticks on contact. Even easier, have children, just like adults, wear pre-treated tick repellent clothes (socks, shirts, pants, shoes) which can be bought from numerous outdoor retailers.
5) After returning indoors.
When you child comes indoors, make sure they bathe or shower to wash away any unattached ticks. Also, throw their clothes into a hot dryer for 10-15 minutes before you wash them to kill any lingering ticks.
6) Remove a tick immediately.
Although ticks prefer wooded, brushy areas, most children get bitten by a tick when they’re playing or doing other activities such as gardening at home. If you find a tick on your child, remove it immediately. Grasp the tick from its head, not its body, with fine-tipped tweezers. Slowly and steadily pull the tick straight out and then clean the area with soap and water. (For more information on tick removal, click here). There is some debate about how long it takes for a tick to transmit Lyme bacteria, so the sooner you remove it the better. Still, you should monitor your child for any Lyme symptoms.
7) Warning signs.
If you remove a tick, check your child for rashes for the next month. If your child develops flu-like symptoms, contact your doctor. Treatment for Lyme disease is more effective if begun early.