Keep your kids tick-safe this summer
School is out and summer is here. Many parents across the nation have made plans to send their "small people" off to camp for a week or more. The kids can enjoy activities such as water sports, hiking, and camping. It is an opportunity to explore and interact with nature. Some of these interactions may not be a positive experience. Some, such as a tick bite, can be a bummer. The creepy little arachnids jump onto the child’s skin as he or she brushes past bushes, plants, and grass. Once on the skin, they commonly move to a warm, moist location, such as the armpits, navel, groin, or, hair. They then clamp firmly onto the skin and begin to draw blood.
Ticks can be fairly large - about the size of a pencil eraser - or almost microscopic in size. In most cases, they cause local irritation that requires application of an antiseptic and a little time to resolve. On occasion, they can cause an infection. This is more likely to occur if the insect is plucked from the skin, leaving the head behind. Sometimes they can cause an allergic reaction, which may be severe. Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can result in death.
Some ticks carry bacteria, which can be transmitted to the host. Higher infection rates of tick-borne diseases occur in children ages 2-14; thus, making them a prime target for ticks during their summer camp vacations. Some ticks carry the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which causes Lyme disease. They acquire the bacteria when they bite infected mice or deer. Lyme disease was first reported in the US in the town of Old Lyme, Connecticut in 1975. Cases have now been reported in most parts of the nation. Most of the cases occur in the Northeast, some parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin, the mid-Atlantic states, and along the Pacific coast. Lyme disease is usually seen during the late spring, summer, and early fall. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Lyme disease is the fastest growing infectious disease and the most common tick-borne disease in the nation.
As with any disease, prevention is far preferable to treatment. For this reason, the Tick-Borne Disease Alliance (TBDA) has compiled a list of the top five “must have” items in a Tick-Prevention Summer Camp Survival Kit that every parent should include in their child’s travel bags this summer.
The TBDA Tick-Prevention Summer Camp Survival Kit includes:
- Tick-Repellent Clothing: Brands such as Insect Shield, ExOfficio’s BugsAway or ElimiTick can be purchased from retailers like L.L. Bean and Eastern Mountain Sports and are effective for up to 70 washes. Clothing-safe tick sprays such as those with permethrin, an insecticide that repels and kills ticks, are a great alternative to pre-treated clothing. Footwear, socks and sleeping bags should always be treated along with pants and shirts.
- Maximum Coverage Clothing: Children should bring along a pair of pre-treated, light-colored long pants, a long sleeve shirt and a hat. A reduction in the amount of skin exposed means a reduction in the number of places a tick can attack.
- Insect Repellent that is approved by the EPA should be included and many brands come in easy-to-carry travel sizes that are perfect to take on long adventures. DEET is a well-known repellent; however, it’s not recommended for children. Parents may want to try a spray like Buzz Away Extreme, Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent or Avon Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus Expedition.
- Re-Sealable Bags: When returning from the outdoors, a child should place any untreated dirty clothes in a re-sealable bag until these clothes can be put in a dryer, which would kill any existing ticks. Sealing up the untreated dirty clothes will prevent any ticks that might be on these items from being transported to the child’s clean clothes, bedding and anywhere else.
- Lots of Soap: Many ticks are so small that they can go unnoticed and showering immediately after spending time outside will help to spot and remove unattached ticks. Bath time is the perfect time for a child to carefully inspect themselves for any unwanted hitchhikers.
The Tick-Borne Disease Alliance notes that it is dedicated to raising awareness, promoting advocacy, and supporting initiatives to find a cure for tick-borne diseases, including Lyme. As part of its efforts, TBDA is embarking on a quest to develop a reliable diagnostic tool as a first step toward eradicating the diseases. Working with others in the tick-borne disease community nationwide, TBDA seeks to raise public awareness through education and create a unified voice for advocacy regarding the current epidemic in order to make a real difference. For additional information regarding TBDA, Lyme and tick-borne diseases, as well as prevention and protection can be found at this link.