Worried About Lyme Disease?
In order to minimize chances of being bitten in the first place, experts recommend the following:
- Keep a tidy yard. Lyme-carrying ticks are usually found in wooded areas, fields, and other "wild" areas (though they can also live at the seashore or in a suburban backyard). Experts advise keeping grass and brush trimmed and placing barriers, like a fence, between your property and "unkempt" areas.
- Dress your kids in anti-tick garb. Have them wear long sleeves and long pants that fit tightly around the ankles and wrists (or tuck pants into their socks) when playing in wooded or shrubby areas. This dress code can be tough to enforce, especially on a hot day; you'll have to decide for yourself how great the danger is in a given area and whether these precautions are worth the discomfort. Also, consider having your child use insect repellent with less than 10% DEET (see Insect Repellents for Kids).
- Check your kids for ticks daily. A Lyme-carrying tick has to be attached to its host for at least 24 hours in order to transmit the disease, says Feder, so by doing full-body checks (including scalp) at the end of each day, you can prevent transmission even after your child has been bitten. The types of ticks that transmit Lyme disease are very small -- they may resemble a freckle or speck of dirt -- so be sure to inspect closely. Also, launder clothes at the end of the day and dry them in a hot cycle to kill any ticks that may have crawled onboard.
- If you do find a tick, use fine-point tweezers to grasp it gently, without squeezing, as close to the skin as possible; then pull it straight out without twisting, says the American Lyme Disease Foundation. (If any part of the tick remains in the skin, it still might transmit disease.) If you don't have tweezers available, wear gloves or use tissue or even a leaf to avoid contact with the tick. Apply antiseptic to the bite site and the tweezers, and wash your hands. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), it isn't necessary to save the tick for testing, since that isn't an effective way of predicting whether or not your child will contract the disease.