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Tick Bites Tactics to Stop the Tiny AttacksTICK BITES
Tactics to Stop the Tiny Attacks
These tiny little critters always were a nuisance, but since the discovery of Lyme disease in 1975, they've become even more ominous.
The common tick is about an eighth of an inch long and easy to spot, while the deer tick--which can carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease--is smaller and harder to see.
If you live in tick territory, it's important to keep a sharp eye out for these tiny animals and remove them from your children as soon as possible. Here are some tips from the experts.
Perform a tick search. 'After the child comes in from a tick-infested area, especially the woods, do a tick check,' says Gary Wasserman, D.O., a pediatric emergency medicine specialist, chief of the section of clinical toxicology and director of the Poison Control Center at The Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri. Check your child carefully from head to toe, including the groin area. Look carefully through her hair, paying particular attention to the scalp border, where ticks like to latch on.
Tweezer that tick off. If a tick is still crawling, you can pluck it off with tweezers without pulling at the skin. But if the tick has already latched on, care is required. First, explain to your child that you need to pull off the tick, but it won't hurt. ( Even when a bit of skin is pulled away along with the tick, there's very little pain involved.)
Now grip the tick as close to the skin with the tweezers as possible and gently pull it away, but not too fast, cautions Herbert Luscombe, M.D., professor emeritus of dermatology at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia and senior attending dermatologist at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.
When to See the Doctor
Two of the most common tick-related ailments are Lyme disease, which causes joint pain and other complications, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which can cause serious illness from high fever.
Fortunately, both usually have distinctive rashes that should alert you to seek immediate medical attention, says Gary Wasserman, D.O., a pediatric emergency medicine specialist, chief of the section of clinical toxicology and director of the Poison Control Center at The Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri.
The telltale sign of Lyme disease is a rash shaped something like a bull's-eye. It can appear anywhere on the body. Look for a red dot that expands into a large, roughly circular red area. Other symptoms may include fever, headache, muscle pains and lethargy.
A child infected with Rocky Mountain spotted fever will develop small pink spots on the wrists and ankles that then spread to the rest of the body. Other possible symptoms are mild fever, loss of appetite, headache, nausea and vomiting.
Caution: Jerking the tick out can leave mouth parts behind that can infect the skin. And never use your fingers to remove a tick since bacteria from the tick can penetrate even unbroken skin.
Avoid scary remedies. Some people advocate trying to get a tick to loosen its grip by applying a lighted cigarette or sizzling match tip. That's just too frightening for children, says Dr. Wasserman, and it's less effective than using tweezers.
Also, don't try nail polish. 'This will likely suffocate a tick,' he says, 'but it may take as long as four hours and by then the tick may have already infected the child.'
Dispose of the tick. Ticks will drown in a mixture of water and electricdishwasher detergent. Stir about one teaspoonful of detergent in a cup of water, then drop the tick in the solution, says Dr. Wasserman.
Disinfect the area. Wash the bitten area thoroughly with soap and water, says Claude Frazier, M.D., an allergist in Asheville, North Carolina, and the author of Insects and Allergy: And What to Do about Them. Then apply an antiseptic ointment.
Cover up. To avoid bringing in ticks from woods and fields, help your child dress properly. He should wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Clothes should be light-colored, so you can see ticks more easily, suggests Dr. Wasserman. To fend off ticks falling from tree branches, your child should also wear a hat or cap.
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