Ticks are tiny parasitic animals that suck blood from the skin. Tick bites on kids are common, especially in those who spend a excessive time outdoors in the woods or the areas overgrown with grass. Ticks are usually not harmful unless they carry any germs, as in the case of Lyme disease. Out of the two most common and main types of ticks found in the US, hard ticks and soft ticks, only a few of them are capable of causing disease in humans (1).
This post will help you learn about tick bites on kids, including their symptoms, treatments, and preventive measures.
Appearance Of A Tick Bite On Kids
A tick bite generally appears as a small bump or redness resembling a mosquito bite and resolves within two days.
In some rare cases, a rash may appear at the bite site after a few weeks. If a rash appears, seek medical help, as it could be an early symptom of Lyme disease (2).
Diseases Caused Due To Tick Bites
You can find different types of ticks in your surroundings. However, the most commonly known disease-causing ticks are the American dog tick, the wood tick, and the black-legged tick, also known as the deer tick.
Wood ticks are sesame-seed-sized, flat, oval-shaped insects with wide bodies and are bright reddish-brown. These ticks are primarily considered to be responsible for transmitting Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF), a potentially fatal disease characterized by headache, tick fever, eye rashes, and body weakness.
Deer ticks, also known as blacklegged ticks, are dark-colored arachnids that are the size of poppy seeds and are named after their host, the white-tailed deer. These ticks are mainly responsible for the transmission of Lyme disease and Anaplasmosis (3). The early symptoms of Lyme disease may include rash, headache, fatigue, joint pains, and swollen lymph nodes (2).
Signs Of Tick Bites
- A little red bump on the site of the tick bite
- Mild allergic reactions
- Local swelling and inflammation at the tick bite site
- Joint pain
- Eye rashes
- Neck stiffness
- Droopy eyelids
Ways To Remove Ticks From The Skin
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests a few easy tick-removal steps with the help of tweezers (6).
- With the help of a clean pair of fine-tipped tweezers, get a hold of the tick as close to the skin as possible
- Pull the tick out of the skin by applying steady pressure. Try to avoid shaking or twisting the tweezers as it might cause the tick’s mouth-parts to break off inside the skin. In case this happens, refrain from taking out the parts that are still stuck to the skin.
- After the tick is removed, clean the bite area thoroughly by either rubbing alcohol or washing with soap and water
- Do not apply petroleum jelly or nail polish on the tick to remove it.
Are Tick Bites Dangerous?
Tick bites may usually cause a mild allergic reaction, leading to redness, itching, and swelling in people with allergies to ticks.
For a tick to release the harmful germs into your child’s bloodstream, it has to penetrate the skin and stay there for at least 36-48 hours. Therefore, it is safe to remove the tick immediately when you see it (7).
Further, if you notice signs of tiredness or drowsiness, vomiting, or any other flu-like symptoms in your child after a few hours of removing the tick, consult your doctor at the earliest.
Treating A Tick Bite
Tick bites do not cause any serious illnesses unless they are deer tick bites, which act as carriers for the germs of diseases, such as Lyme disease. Usually, tick bites can be treated by washing the affected area with soap and water. However, if Lyme disease symptoms appear, the most common of which is widespread rash around the tick bite area, treatment with antibiotics under medical supervision is recommended (8).
Preventing Tick Bites In Children
Although tick exposure could happen throughout the year, it is more common during the summer months, that is, from April to September. The following prevention strategies can help your children avoid tick bites (9).
- After returning from outside, check your child’s clothes, armpits, hairline, belly button, and other areas that might act as hotspots for ticks.
- Do not let your child go out into known tick-infested areas.
- Make your children wear full-sleeved clothes, and cover their hands and legs well before going out into the woods.
- Spray insect repellent containing at least 20-30% DEET around the house and on the plants and bushes surrounding it.
- Regularly check your pets for ticks as they can act as carriers.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. When should I worry about a tick bite on my child?
If you cannot remove the ticks, or if there is a widespread rash, fever, or headache after two to 14 days of the bite, consult your doctor. Also, if the child previously has not taken a tetanus vaccine within the last ten years, visit a hospital for prompt medical attention (10).
2. How soon do I need antibiotics after a tick bite?
The antibiotics treatment or any other treatment plan must start within 72 hours of the tick removal. If there are reports of Lyme disease or any other tick-borne illnesses in the area where you have been bitten, contact a doctor soon for prompt medical attention (11).
Tick bites in children can be commonly seen when they are playing outdoors in the garden or near the plants. It is important that you make them wear full-sleeved clothes, keep them away from areas that have been infested with ticks, and keep your surroundings clean and sanitized to reduce their occurrence. If your child gets bitten by a tick, make sure that you wash the area properly with soap and water and remove the germs from the area. In case you notice signs of infection or rashes, consult your doctor immediately.
- A rash appearing a few weeks later at the site of the bite might be an early symptom of Lyme disease.
- Wood tick may transmit a potentially fatal disease, termed Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF).
- It may take several days for the symptoms to appear after a tick bite.
- A red bump at the tick bite site, joint pain, eye rashes, and droopy eyelids are some early symptoms of a tick bite.
- Types of Ticks.
- Blacklegged deer ticks.
- Signs and Symptoms of Untreated Lyme Disease.
- Tick Bite.
- Tick Allergy.
- Tick Removal.
- What is Lyme Disease?
- Tick bites and disease.
- First Aid: Tick bites.
- Tick Bite In Kids;
- Guidance For Clinicians: Caring For Patients After A Tick Bite;