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Tick Bites

By Melinda Winterscheid, M.D.

Path in grassy woods.

A tick is a bug that attaches to the skin and feeds on the blood of humans and animals. The bite is usually painless and doesn't itch. Ticks can cause serious infections and the risk of human infection is greatest in late spring and summer. Boys Town Pediatrics discusses common types of ticks, prevention and treatment for tick bites.

Types of Ticks

  • Wood Tick. The wood tick or dog tick transmits Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Colorado tick fever and is around 1/2 inch in size.
  • Deer Tick. The deer tick transmits Lyme disease and is the size of a pinhead and causes rashes.

Tick Bite Prevention

Because a tick bite is painless and doesn't itch, your child will probably not know the tick is there. Favorite hiding places include the hair, behind the ears, neck, armpit and groin. Ticks waits for a host in tall grasses and shrubs on well-used paths. Be aware of these areas and be cautious when you walk, camp or hunt in the woods. Try to stay on trails where paths are free of grassy plants.

  • Clothing. When outdoors, dress in long-sleeved shirts, pants and a hat. Tuck clothing into the pants, socks or boots to prevent exposure of the skin. Wearing light-colored clothing can make it easier to spot ticks before they reach the skin.
  • Insect Repellent. Use an insect repellent containing up to 30 percent DEET. Spray on clothing, especially pant cuffs, shoes and socks. You can also spray on other outdoor items like your sleeping bag and tent. Do not apply on the skin and only apply to children 2 months and older.

Check for Ticks. A tick preparing to feed can take anywhere from 10 minutes to 2 hours to begin the process so it is important to check every couple of hours. Use the buddy system and remove ticks on any clothing or exposed skin immediately. Also, check your pets for ticks. After heading home, check the body and take a shower to wash away any ticks not firmly attached to the skin.

Removal of a Tick

Removing a tick promptly may prevent infection because transmission of Lyme disease requires at least 24 hours of feeding and the tick is easier to remove before it becomes firmly attached.

  • Removal. The simplest and quickest way to remove a tick is to pull it off. Use tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible by the head or mouth and pull firmly until the tick is fully removed. If the body is removed but the head is left in the skin, use a sterile needle to remove the head similar to how you would remove a sliver. Wash the wound and your hands with soap and water after removal and apply an antibiotic ointment to the bite.
  • What Not To Do. Never twist the tick or jerk it suddenly because it may break off the tick's head or mouth. Do not squeeze the tweezers to the point of crushing the tick because the secretions released may contain germs that cause diseases.

If your child develops a rash or an infection occurs, consult with your physician immediately.