How to Prevent Ticks

The weather is getting warmer! The family will be spending more time outdoors and having fun. But do you know how to protect your babies and toddlers from ticks?

The big tick trauma everyone knows about is Lyme disease. It hits 300,000+ Americans every year and can cause anything from mild flu to painful meningitis and even chronic nerve damage, joint pains, fatigue and memory impairment. But, this summer the risk is greater than usual…because of mice!

Long story short, Lyme is carried by deer ticks, but recently mice have added to the threat. A 2015 acorn boom created a rodent population surge, and those mice carry Lyme-laden ticks that eventually make it to your children.

So, it’s time for a refresher on how to prevent against ticks and the diseases they carry.

Tick Bites on Kids: Spotting Lyme Disease in Babies

Once bitten, the bacteria causing Lyme usually take 24 to 48 hours to “swim” from the tick’s gut to the saliva and then enter our bodies. The first sign of a problem may be finding the tick still attached, but often the tick feeds and then drops off. The more typical first sign of infection is a red “target” rash—a circle of red skin with a central clearing that grows slowly from 2-12 inches—which appears 1 to 3 weeks after the bite.

But, 20-30% of those infected never see this “classic” sign or even knew they had a tick bite.

If you are vacationing (or living in) an area with ticks, consider Lyme disease if your child complains of flu-like muscle aches, headaches, joint pain or runs a fever. (Another, odd symptom is droopiness of one side of your child’s mouth…indicating a nerve palsy.)

With Lyme, the good news is that the earlier you are put on antibiotics, the better the chance of a total cure.

4 Worse Tick Illnesses Caused by Tick Bites

Besides Lyme disease, sneaky ticks also carry a few other serious—potentially fatal—diseases from tick bites.

  1. Ehrlichiosis. This tick-borne problem is half as common as Lyme and occurs mostly in the southeastern and south central U.S. Fatigue and flu occur 1 to 2 weeks after a bite; serious cases can lead to breathing and bleeding problems, as well as organ failure.

  2. Babesiosis. This tick illness is found mostly in coastal Rhode Island, New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey (and their offshore islands). However, cases have also been reported in Georgia, Missouri, Minnesota, Wisconsin and California. Many people have no symptoms, others report a bit of “flu.” Rarely, Babesiosis can lead to hemolytic anemia, a serious blood condition.

  3. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. This tick-borne illness hits visitors to southeast Arizona and Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, and North Carolina—the so-called “Tick Belt.” Infection happens after a tick bite from a wood or dog tick and can enter the body after just a few hours of being bitten. Within 3 to 10 days, kids develop fever, headache and vomiting. And, after a couple of days, they often show a spotted rash that classically starts round the hands and feet…and is one of the very rare types of rash that even shows up on the palms and soles. As with Lyme, quick treatment with antibiotics usually provides quick cure.

  4. Powassan. This new tick-related problem has been very rarely noted in the northeast and Great Lakes regions. Fortunately, fewer than 100 cases have been reported. This infection is transmitted very quickly—15 minutes of a bite—and it causes a life-threatening illness with encephalitis and the risk of permanent neurological damage.

Fortunately, all of these tick-borne illnesses can be treated with antibiotics, except Powassan. That one is caused by a virus. Powassan is quite rare, but doctors have real concerns that global warming will trigger more and more tick- and mosquito-borne diseases.

How to Prevent Tick Bites on Babies and Toddlers 

The best way to protect your family from lyme disease is basic tick prevention! So, when heading out on vacation, be sure your family takes these steps:

  • Wear clothing that covers most of the body when you will be going through grassy or wooded areas. Tuck pant cuffs into your socks to keep ticks from sneaking in from the grass and wear hats if you will be in wooded areas, to keep them from dropping onto your head from above.

  • Use insect repellents. Bug spray with 20-30% DEET is best for warding off ticks. It’s best to spray it onto your shoes, socks and pant legs, rather than directly on your skin. Never use tick repellent on babies under 2 months of age, per the American Academy of Pediatrics.

  • Perform tick checks on your bodies…and your clothes. And, check your pets, too. Ticks can move from one warm body to another!

  • Brings along a fine tweezer on your trip…just in case you need to remove a tick from a child, animal, or yourself.

  • Check in with a local doctor’s office. Ask what tick illnesses are common in the area.

How to Check for Ticks

It’s important to inspect your children, preferably before coming into the house...including their hair, ears, under arms, and yes, even inside their belly buttons. Ticks like to go to warm cozy places!

How to Remove a Tick from a Child

Found a tick? Use your fine tweezer to pull it out, but ALWAYS grab the tick by the mouth—as close to your skin as possible—and pull out slowly. (Don’t use matches or try to suffocate with Vaseline; these old ideas don’t work and can make matters worse!)

Once it is off, put the tick in a little container to save it—in case you get sick and the tick needs to be evaluated for illness. Then, clean the bite area with soap and water…and wash your hands, too!

Lastly, have everyone change clothes when they come inside from tick areas and wear fresh clothes every day to keep your gang tick-free, healthy and happy.

Protect Your Baby From Other Pesky Pests

Our new Shoo Mosquito Net keeps out mosquitoes (and the illness they carry) well as other pests, like spiders, flies...and even curious cats! Learn more about Shoo here.  

About Dr. Harvey Karp

Dr. Harvey Karp, one of America’s most trusted pediatricians, is the founder of Happiest Baby and the inventor of the groundbreaking SNOO Smart Sleeper. After years of treating patients in Los Angeles, Dr. Karp vaulted to global prominence with the release of the bestselling Happiest Baby on the Block and Happiest Toddler on the Block. His celebrated books and videos have since become standard pediatric practice, translated into more than 20 languages and have helped millions of parents. Dr. Karp’s landmark methods, including the 5 S’s for soothing babies, guide parents to understand and nurture their children and relieve stressful issues, like new-parent exhaustion, infant crying, and toddler tantrums.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.