How to Keep Kids Safe Outside: What You Need to Know about the Infamous Deer Tick & Lyme Disease
Plan for tick season before the snow melts.
In the Northeast, it always seems like I start seeing and hearing about ticks right around the time meteorological spring begins (March 1). Like clockwork, the snow melted for faux spring, which meant we went for a waltz in the woods. Within an hour of returning home, I found a deer tick crawling on my elbow. Blek. No matter who it attaches to – ticks never cease to disgust me. And somehow, I’m always unprepared for the first tick of the season.
Ticks have become a conversation I have with mom-friends and random people on Facebook at least a couple of times each summer. Recently I realized I’ve become the Dr. Mom of all my mom friends – I get some weird pictures sent to my inbox. Still yet, I find that any time someone encounters a tick, they freeze – then panic. If you’re looking for a no-nonsense, panic-free approach to dealing with ticks, you’ve come to the right place. Whether you’ve come for answers on removing a tick or keeping it off your body in the first place, I’ve got you covered. Pun intended.
EEEK I found a tick! What now?
First things first: DO. NOT. PANIC. Seriously, waste your cortisol and high blood pressure on something legitimate. They’re disgusting, to be sure, but it’s the nymphal ticks that spread the most disease (because you don’t typically see/feel them and they stay attached longer). If you’ve got a big one on your hands, you’re a leg up. The first thing you need to do is determine if the tick is engorged. Then do the obvious thing and remove it. If it’s embedded in your kid or dog, panicking is the worst thing you can do because it’s going to scare them and make removing it more difficult. If it’s embedded in your own skin, just save your heebie-jeebie dance until after you’ve removed it. Trust me on this one. You don’t want to make it wiggle.
Is the tick engorged?
How to determine if the tick is engorged? Does it matter? To start, a tick turns gray if it’s engorged and you can’t see its distinct body parts anymore. It looks more like a very full chia seed. This matters because the risk of a tick transmitting Lyme before it’s been attached for 36 hours is less than 10%1. That’s not to say it can’t happen, but there are other higher-risk things to worry about. For reference, the current risk of dying from cancer is 1 in 7 (14%). COVID-19 is 1 in 12 (8.3%). Most people are not panicking about whether their lunch was organic and how that contributed to their cancer risk (I’m not most people). And luckily, with Lyme disease, death is unlikely and it CAN be treated with antibiotics. It’s good to keep all things in perspective. Removing a tick that is engorged is slightly more complicated just because it’s harder to grasp with tweezers. In my house, we keep “tick twisters” on both floors, in all our first-aid kits, and in our diaper bag. I highly recommend grabbing one moving forward.
recently attached tick