Here in Atlanta, the city in a forest, we sure get a lot of bugs. If the mosquito should be our state bird, then the tick should come in a close second. With all the wooded and grassy areas, ticks are bound to be found here, so you can bet there will be a tick sighting or two. If you live in a heavily wooded area, or are planning on hitting the trails and/or going camping this summer, you should probably figure out the places ticks hide on little kids. Be vigilant, friends. Ticks are sneaky sneaky jerk faces and they love to hide in damp, dark, and tight nooks and crannies of your body.
“Ticks love to hide on kids in and around their hair and their ears, under their arms, near their groin, between their legs, and behind their knees, and around their waist,” says Dr. Dean Jacobs, board-certified pediatrician at MemorialCare Medical Group in Santa Ana, California. “Ticks frequently prefer areas that are warm and damp, but some of their favorite hiding spots can be even tougher to find. Be sure to check in your child's belly button, on their clothing, and don’t forget to also check your child's pet dog who came on the hike with you.” Dr. Danelle Fisher, vice chair of pediatrics at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California, adds that ticks will also attach to your skin anywhere on the body, so be on the lookout everywhere once you come inside from any outdoor festivities.
If you do find a tick, Jacobs says to not panic, especially if the tick isn’t engorged — which means it hasn’t bitten through yet. And "even if it has bitten through, most tick bites do not end up spreading any disease at all, and the risk of your child getting Lyme disease is still very, very low.” Next, Jacobs tells Romper to note the tick’s color and to take a photo of it or keep the tick so you can help identify what kind of tick it is later, if need be.
Find one and worried about removing it? Jacobs says there is a very specific way to capture a tick to ensure that you get all of it off and out of your child’s skin. “Try covering the tick for at least 30 seconds with a cotton ball that has been soaked in liquid soap. Sometimes the tick will just stick to the cotton ball when you lift it away. If this fails, next hold clean, sterilized, fine-tipped tweezers parallel to the skin, and use the tweezers to grab the tick on its head as close to the skin as possible. Be careful not to grasp or squeeze the tick's body. Pull the tick straight upward away from the skin without twisting or smashing it, until the tick releases its grasp,” Jacobs explains.
“If the tick is not swollen and if it is tiny, it can be scraped off [the skin] with the edge of a credit card. In either case, if any part of the tick breaks off in the skin, clean the skin with rubbing alcohol, and remove any large pieces with the sterilized tweezers. Once you remove the tick, wash your child’s wound with soap and water, and apply a topical antibiotic ointment. If there is a small bump or inflamed area from the bite, it usually starts to improve and go away within about two days. Do not use petroleum jelly, rubbing alcohol, nail polish, heat, or cold on the tick to get it to release, as that could make things worse,” he says.
As far as the chance for your child getting Lyme disease, Jacobs says it’s still less than 2 percent. “Getting Lyme disease also depends on what type of tick it was, how long the tick was attached, and even your location and the time of year. It’s specifically the deer tick, also known as Ixodes, that causes Lyme disease. It is thought to have to be attached and feeding for at least 36 hours before transmitting the infection.”
Even if you find and remove a tick successfully, there are still some reasons to bring your kid to the doctor. These symptoms include rashes, fevers, headaches, facial weakness, droopiness, neck pain or stiffness, or if your child looks sick, according to Jacobs. The “bullseye rash” that can occur is called “Erythema migrans,” Jacobs says. “Erythema migrans appears in about 80 percent of people who develop Lyme disease. It forms about three days to 30 days after the bite, it typically expands in size and becomes more red over time, and it may have one ring around the bite site or multiple rings.” But again, the chances of Lyme disease are very slim.
To prevent tick bites, Fisher says, “It is important to cover as much body surface area as possible when going to an area endemic for ticks. Long-sleeved cotton shirts, pants, socks and shoes, and hats are particularly helpful in preventing tick bites. In addition, the application of DEET is also helpful (unless the child is younger than 2 months of age, where DEET is not approved).” Jacobs adds that all spray repellents should never be sprayed directly into your child’s face and they should be applied in open areas. However, if you’re looking for a more natural approach that isn’t DEET, Dr. Gina Posner, a pediatrician at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California says the lemon eucalyptus spray works well.
After coming in from outside, be sure to check your kid’s scalp, armpits, groin area, backs of the knees, behind the ears, around their waist, and even in their belly button. Ticks love warm, dark, and damp places on the body to hide. But if you do find a tick, don’t worry — take a pair of sterilized tweezers and pull the tick directly straight out, trying not to leave the head in there, and keep an eye on your kid for fevers, rashes, or any other strange symptoms.