Handling Tick Bites

Summer is a great time for children to enjoy the outdoors. However, it is also the favorite season of many insects, including ticks. Here is a short description of things to keep in mind about ticks.

  • What do ticks look like? Ticks are very small, ranging from the size of the head of a pin to almost the size of a quarter. These larger ticks are found only in tropical areas, though. They have four pairs of legs, a hard shell, and are brown, black, or grey in color.
  • Where are they? Ticks are found almost everywhere in the world where animals live, but mainly in areas with tall grass, bushes, or low-hanging branches where they can attach to passing animals. Once a tick finds a host, it likes to attach to warm parts of the body. For humans, this can mean attaching to places like the armpits, inner thighs, or on our scalps underneath our hair.
  • What diseases do ticks carry? Luckily, most ticks do not carry diseases and simply need to be properly removed. However, there are certain diseases carried by ticks that are of special concern, including lyme disease. Click here for a comprehensive list and descriptions of tick-borne diseases in the US.
  • How can you prevent tick bites? First and foremost, make sure your child avoids places where ticks are commonly found. For example, if you are hiking, stick to designated paths where there is less undergrowth. Most importantly, though, you should check your child after he or she has been in areas where there may have been ticks. Ticks do not immediately bite, so the sooner you check, the better chance you have of being able to remove the tick before it attaches.
  • What should you do if your child gets bit? If your child gets bit, use tweezers to grab the tick as close to its head (the part underneath the skin) as possible. Slowly pull out without twisting. If the head becomes removed from the rest of the tick’s body, try to remove it with tweezers as well. Once removed, clean the bite with warm water and soap. After a bite, give your child periodic body checks to look for rashes. Lyme disease, for example, frequently causes a target-shaped rash, which can even form under your child’s hair. Therefore, it is important to be very thorough when checking your child’s skin.

If you suspect that your child has been bitten by a tick, contact their primary care provider.