I Found a Tick on my Child!!!
I found a tick on my child!!! What should I do? First of all, take a deep breath and do not panic. Staying in control of the situation will prevent further stress to your child. It is important to remove the tick as soon as possible. Afterwards you can determine whether your child has contracted any diseases associated with ticks such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
The best method to remove a tick is by physically extracting it using tweezers or forceps. It will be a traumatic experience for most children and many will not stay still. Before you attempt this procedure, try to calm your child down by giving something to preoccupy him or her while you are taking out the tick. The following instructions are provided by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
If the body is engorged take care not to squeeze the body because the blood ingested by the tick will regurgitate back to your child. This will increase the chance of infection if the tick is infected. As best you can, grasp at the mouthparts or head with tweezers. If the body breaks off from the head, continue to remove the head with the tweezers. For many parents, the child will not stay still long enough for you to successfully take it all out and many times the body will break from the head. If you are unsuccessful in taking out the head, do not fret. Leaving the head in will not increase the risk of infection from the tick. You can also try to attempt taking out the head at a later time (ie. when your child is sleeping). If all else fails, the skin will just heal over it and sometimes the body will expel it naturally. Many times the head will create inflammation – pain, heat, redness and swelling. Sometimes pus may result as well. If swelling does not resolve in a week, consult a doctor. (Don’t throw the tick away. It can be used to identify the type of tick and one can test the tick for possible diseases. Place the tick in a moist tissue and keep it in a sealed vial or small plastic ziplock bag. ) Clean the bite area along with your hands with rubbing alcohol, iodine or soap and water. Apply antibacterial ointment on the bite area. Recheck the entire body of your child to see if there are any other tick bites. Ticks like to hide in inconspicuous areas such as folds of skin. So make sure to check behind the knee, the groin and armpit area, behind the ears and neck, inside the bellybutton and lastly the scalp.
There are many other ways people use to remove the tick such as using petroleum jelly, applying heat to remove the tick, rubbing alcohol, mineral oil, fingernail polish etc. These methods are not recommended since it will either prolong the time the tick is attached to the body or these methods will irritate the tick to regurgitate the ingested blood back to the bloodstream – both increases the probability of infection.
If you are unable to remove the tick for one reason or another, contact your doctor for immediate removal. If getting a doctor in a timely fashion is not feasible find someone you trust with steady hands to do it for you. Timing is important and the less time the tick is embedded in your child the better your chances that an “infected” tick will not transmit the bacteria.
With this said, our european counterparts have devised another way to remove a tick by utilizing a tick removal device and applying a twisting action. However this is not covered or approved by the CDC in the United States so we will not discuss it in this article.
Now that the tick is removed, how can I determine the risk my child has in contracting the dreaded Lyme disease?
The probability of infection comes from these important criteria:
- What kind of tick is it? (Is it the Black-Legged Tick most commonly known as a Deer Tick? or is it a the Brown Dog Tick? Size of the tick can also help determine the type. Lyme disease is only transmitted to humans by the Deer tick.)
- How long has the child been exposed to the tick? (Consider the possibilities of where your child might have been exposed to it – pets at home, playing in the park, friend’s house etc. Another way to determine how long your child has been exposed to the tick is by seeing whether the tick is engorged or not. Typically if you do not see any engorgement, the tick bite has latched on for less than 24 hours. Transmission Lyme disease from ticks do not occur less than 24 hours from attachment.)
- Are there signs of a rash or inflammation around the tick bite? ( Most commonly described as a “bull’s-eye” appearance – Erythema migrans. The “target” shaped rash will start out as small and localized but with progression of the diameter of the rash will increase in size shown below.)
- Is Lyme disease prevalent in your area?
If you are located in an area where Lyme disease are prevalent, it is always best to consult a doctor if your child is bitten by a tick. Antibiotic prophylaxis is normally not recommended routinely but if prescribed, children under ages 8 are typically given Amoxicillin in contrast to adults who are given Doxycycline – Doxycycline can stain teeth permanently in children.
All in all, for those families who are located in areas where Lyme disease is prevalent, it is best practice to examine your child every time he or she goes out to play especially in wooded and tall grass areas.
References and Additional Readings:
1. Kliegman, R., et. al. Nelson textbook of Pediatrics, 19th Ed. PA: Elsevier, 2011.
2. CDC. Centers for Disease Control and Infection. 2012 http://www.cdc.gov/lyme/