Whether it’s a day at the pool or backyard exploration, summer weather brings with it outdoor adventures. But with warmer temperatures also come increased health hazards for children, including dehydration and pesky insects, like hard-to-spot ticks. But what’s the deal if you do catch a tick attached to your child’s body? How long does it take for a tick to give you Lyme disease?
“The incubation period from a tick bite to the appearance of single or multiple Erythema-Migrans lesions — the classic Lyme disease “bulls eye” rash — ranges from one to 32 days, with a median of 11 days,” Dr. Jennifer Lighter, assistant professor of pediatric infectious disease at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone, tells Romper in an email interview. “Late manifestations of the disease can occur months after the tick bite.”
Texas-based Dr. Eboni Hollier, who is board-certified in both general and developmental and behavioral pediatrics, points out in an email interview that “this rash usually starts out as a red or pink circle that gets larger over time” and may occur with or without other symptoms, such as fever, chills, headache, and/or muscle aches and pains. This can be especially hard to diagnose in children who may show symptoms that are similar to the common cold, flu, and other conditions. And the rash doesn’t always occur, which is why experts stress the importance of watching for these signs after a child has been outside rolling in the grass or near a wooded area.
Nixing the possibility of Lyme disease rides on how quickly you respond to a possible tick bite. If you can see the tick attached to your child’s skin, then it’s important to remove it immediately, says Dr. Nancy Troyano, entomologist and Director of Technical Education and Training for a family of pest control brands, including Western Exterminator, Presto-X, and Ehrlich.
“Every minute the tick is attached increases the chance of pathogen transmission, should the tick be infected,” Troyano tells Romper in an email interview. “Use tweezers to grasp the tick by the head, as close to the skin as possible, and pull straight up/out.”
Troyano says parents should never twist a tick or grab it by the abdomen in order to avoid squeezing pathogens from the tick right into the bite site.If you are able to remove the tick, then place in a sandwich bag that zips or a jar that can be sealed to show your healthcare provider.
“Different tick species are associated with different disease-causing pathogens, and it may be useful to have the tick properly identified,” Troyano says, adding that many local health departments and extension services from universities offer this service free of charge.
Dr. Valerie Goldburt, a dermatologist with Advanced Dermatology, PC in New York, tells Romper in an email that it is also important to thoroughly check your children after they have been outside. Areas that often go missed are between the legs, in and around the hair, and even inside the belly button, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If you haven’t spotted a tick or a rash, but notice uncharacteristic symptoms in your child, then it’s time to head to the doctor. Again, Lyme disease is one of those things that has a better recovery rate if it’s caught soon.
Just another one of those mom moments where you have to trust your gut.