Lyme disease is a tick-borne disease. A bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi is transmitted to humans by the bite of certain ticks. Early symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and depression. A unique circular skin rash that is described as being a “bull’s eye” rash is also common. This infection and the symptoms can be eliminated through early treatment with an antibiotic.
Most tick bites are harmless and most are difficult to detect since tick bites do not hurt or itch. Prevention is through limiting environmental exposure and having frequent skin checks. The use of topical DEET or Picardin and using tick repellant (permethrin) on clothing are both helpful. DEET or Picardin last about 3-8 hours and can be applied daily. DEET is safe for infants older than 6 months. A 5-10% DEET concentration should be used and there is a rare risk of allergic skin reactions. Showering after coming inside is a good idea. The use of permethrin on pants, cuffs, socks and shoes is also helpful.
Choose playground sites that are away from trees and lawn edges. Hats, socks, long sleeves and long pants can be helpful if walking through high grass and beneath trees and foliage.
Always check your child closely behind the ears, on the scalp, behind the knees, around the belly button and between the toes. For small deer ticks that are the size of a large poppy seed use a fingernail or credit card edge to scrape it off. For larger wood tics place a small cotton ball that has been soaked with liquid soap over the tick. After a minute remove the cotton ball and often the tick will be stuck in the cotton. Another option is to use a tweezers and pull softly to remove it. Any remaining tick parts can be managed as if it was a wood splinter.
If the tick has not been in place for over 24-36 hours the risk of contracting Lyme disease is very low. If you live in an area where Lyme disease is common prophylactic treatment for all children with a single dose of doxycycline can eliminate the risk. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns.