Pediatrics | Published June 23, 2020

‘Tis the season for ticks: How to protect your child

As we all spend more time outside during the summer months, it’s important to remember that summer means tick season in Central Pennsylvania. While tick exposure can occur year-round, ticks are most active during the warmer months. These poppy seed-sized bugs are most commonly found in grassy, brushy or wooded areas and are known to cause Lyme and other diseases. This is of particular concern for our area, as the Lyme disease incidence rate increased 142 points from 2010 to 2016 and exceeds the state rate by 100 points.

As you head out to enjoy the great outdoors, you can limit and prevent tick exposure with the following safe practices, environmental awareness and appropriate use of insect repellents.

Think coverage. Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants. Tuck your shirt into your pants and tuck your pants into your socks to create a barrier between ticks and your skin. Consider using clothing and gear treated with permethrin. If you choose to treat your clothes and gear, follow instructions carefully and do not apply directly on the skin. Also wearing light-colored clothing will help you spot ticks more easily. 

Use repellents. Select an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered repellent designed for direct application to the skin. These products have been tested and proven to be both effective and safe for humans when used as instructed. The EPA provides a tool to help you find the right repellent for your family. The search tool includes only skin-applied repellent products registered by EPA. No unregistered products are listed. 

Know tick habitats. Ticks are most prevalent in areas with tall grasses, bushes and trees. Still, they can be found anywhere in nature, including your backyard. You can make your yard less attractive to ticks by clearing tall grasses, brush and leaves, as well as, regularly mowing your lawn. When taking a nature excursion, be sure to walk in the center of trails to limit brushing against trees, bushes and tall grasses.

Check for ticks. Check your kids each day for ticks. Look in and behind the ears, in the groin area, behind the knees and under the arms. If you find a tick, be sure to remove it right away. Also remember to inspect pets, clothing and camping gear, including backpacks and sleeping bags. Shower soon after being outdoors, as studies show that showering within two hours of coming indoors reduces your risk of getting Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.

  • To remove ticks that are attached, use fine-tipped tweezers. Grab the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible and pull upward in a steady motion. After ensuring the removal of the whole tick, including the mouth, be sure to clean your hands and the surface with soap and water. 
  • Monitor for signs of illness, such as rash or fever, in the days and weeks following the bite. If you have concerns or your child becomes ill in the three to four weeks following a tick bite, contact your pediatrician.