Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
When warmer spring temperatures beckon kids outdoors, parents should remember to check them for ticks to avoid Lyme disease.
Dr. Greg DeMuri, an infectious disease specialist at American Family Children's Hospital, says Lyme disease may cause flu-like symptoms, fever, fatigue, rash and joint and body aches. Ticks get the Lyme bacteria by biting wildlife, such as deer, and the bacteria spreads when the ticks bite human skin. This treatable disease can have serious long-term effects if it's not detected early in its course.
DeMuri says Lyme disease is quite common in younger people who are more likely to be outside in the spring and summer months.
"Children are lower to the ground, and ticks live in grass and low-lying vegetation and get on the child's body," he says. "Parents should look over the child's skin from head to toe because ticks can go anywhere. It generally takes 24 to 48 hours for a tick to spread Lyme disease."
DeMuri, who is also an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, says if a tick is found in the skin, it should be removed immediately, preferably with a pair of tweezers.
"Washing the skin or using other remedies such as gasoline, alcohol and petroleum jelly will not work," he says. "You should use tweezers to grab the tick by the head and not leave any part of it in the skin. Forcible removal is the key."
But prevention is always preferable. DeMuri says children can most easily avoid Lyme disease by:
¥ tucking their pants inside their socks
¥ wearing clothing that is not loose-fitting
¥ using repellents such as DEET, which he says is non-toxic.
"There is this public misconception that DEET is dangerous," says DeMuri. "I can tell you in my 15 years in Wisconsin that I have seen well over 100 cases of Lyme disease and serious complications from them, and I have not seen a single case of toxicity caused by DEET. The benefits clearly outweigh the risks."
DEET is found in a number of over-the-counter insect repellents. DeMuri also says picaridin and permethrin can keep ticks away.
"Both are practically odorless, and will last on clothing for a number of weeks," he says.
Untreated, Lyme can cause chronic joint pain and complications to the heart and central nervous system. However, if caught early, the disease can be eradicated with the use of antibiotics.
"It's very unusual to die from Lyme disease," says DeMuri.