Your number one goal as a parent is to keep your children safe from harm. Although you’re most likely aware of the bigger dangers out there, you might not know much about preventing them from getting Lyme disease, an infection transmitted by tick bites that can lead to severe chronic illness. It’s estimated that more than 3,000 cases of Lyme disease are diagnosed every year in the UK alone, with many of these being children. Here are the most effective ways you can make sure you’re protecting your children from contracting Lyme disease.
Avoid tick-heavy areas
Ticks are most often found in woodsy, brush areas or places with tall grass or vegetation. Ticks can also pop up in mulch and wood piles, as well as stone walls (or anywhere that mice are present). If your child is going hiking or for a walk in the woods, have them steer clear of deer paths. It’s also a good idea to stick to the centre of any trails – the further they are from the brush the better. Of course, it’s always a possibility that ticks can end up elsewhere in the outdoors – even in your garden – so be on the lookout for any place in nature they might be hiding.
Wear long sleeves and trousers
To make sure your child is safe from ticks, dress them in long sleeves and long pants anytime they’re going to be near a tick habitat. It can also be helpful to have them wear light-coloured clothes so that you’ll be able to easily spot any ticks on their clothing. Another tip is to have them tuck their trousers into their socks and wear closed-toe shoes, so there’s no way for the ticks to reach their skin. You can even have your kids wear hats to keep their heads protected while they’re outdoors.
Consider insect repellent
You can try keeping ticks away by spraying DEET insect repellent on their clothes. Applying oil of lemon eucalyptus has also been shown to help prevent bites. Additionally, consider treating their clothes with permethrin (which can last up to six weeks) to keep those ticks away. Just remember to only purchase these products if they say ‘safe for children’ on the package.
Check your kids when they come inside
After your child has been playing outdoors, make sure to do a thorough check for any ticks on their body. It’s especially important to examine creases (on their ankles, between their toes, behind their ears and knees, in the groin, and on their neck and head). To be on the safe side, it’s a good idea to check in their hair for any ticks that might be hiding there. You can use a comb and magnifying glass to get a close-up look.
Shower once indoors
Sticking your kids in the bath or shower once they’re back inside can help wash away any unattached ticks. Plus, the water will help clean their skin of any leftover bug repellent. Then, drop their clothes in the laundry to wash them in hot water – as a bonus, 30 minutes of high heat in the dryer should kill any remaining ticks.
Remove ticks right away
If you discover a tick, use tweezers or a special tick removal kit to remove the tick from its head (not its body). If you leave behind the tick’s mouth parts, your child is at risk for a localised infection (which can lead to abscesses and other complications). Just causing injury to the tick may also cause the tick’s fluids to be regurgitated back into your child’s bloodstream. Pull the tick upward and out (without twisting) to reduce the risk. Then clean the broken skin with a disinfectant like rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide.
Get the tick tested
If you find a tick on your child, you have the option to test it to find out if your child is at risk and what to do next. The BCA-clinic offers a test to see if a tick is a carrier for Lyme disease. From there, the experienced team will advise you on the best course of action to protect your child.
Monitor your child for symptoms
You’ll want to call your doctor if your child has a bullseye rash at the site of the bite or if they’re experiencing flu-like symptoms, a fever, or if they’re feeling tired or sluggish. Your child’s doctor might decide to do a blood test to diagnose Lyme disease, but many doctors proceed with treatment protocol in different ways. However, it’s important to note that symptoms of Lyme disease vary from person to person. Not everyone develops a rash and for some people, rashes don’t appear for several days. So, just pay attention to any changes in how your child is feeling if you suspect they’ve been bitten and don’t be afraid to ask your doctor to consider Lyme disease as an option or to seek more information from organisations such as the BCA-clinic.
It’s always best to err on the side of caution in order to keep your kids protected when they’re outdoors, so follow these steps to reduce the chances of your loved ones contracting Lyme disease.