Monday, February 13, 2012

How to avoid ticks, handle their bites

Photo courtesy of
Wisconsin DNR.
Ticks can infect people with Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

They usually leap onto people from the top of a grass blade as you brush against it, so walking in the middle of the trail away from high plants is a good idea. Wearing a hat, a long sleeve shirt tucked into pants, and pants tucked into shoes or socks, also will keep ticks off you, though this is not foolproof as they sometimes can hook onto clothing. A tightly woven cloth provides the best protection, however. Children can pick up a tick that has hitch-hiked onto the family dog, so outfit Rover and Queenie with a tick-repelling collar.

If heading into an area where ticks live, after the hike you’ll want to examine your children’s bodies for them. Check warm, moist areas of the skin, such as under the arms, the groin and head hair. If they wear light-colored clothing, the tiny tick will be easier to spot.

Also check children for signs of disease from ticks. Look for bulls-eye rings, a sign of a Lyme disease. Other symptoms include a large red rash, joint pain, and flu-like symptoms. Indications of Rocky Mountain spotted fever include headache, fever, severe muscle aches, and a spotty rash first on palms and feet soles that spread, all beginning about two days after the bite.

To get rid of a tick that has bitten your child, drip either disinfectant or rubbing alcohol on the bug, so it will loosen its grip. Grip the tick close to its head, slowly pulling it away from the skin. This hopefully will prevent it from releasing saliva that spreads disease. Rather than kill the tick, keep it in a plastic bag so that medical professionals can analyze it should disease symptoms appear. Next, wash the bite area with soap and water then apply antiseptic.

If any of the previously mentioned symptoms appear, seek medical attention immediately. Fortunately, antibiotics exist to cure most tick-related diseases.

Read more about day hiking with children in my guidebook Hikes with Tykes.