Clinical Reference Systems: Pediatric Advisor 10.0
A tick is a small brown bug that attaches to the skin and
sucks blood for 3 to 6 days. The bite is usually painless
and doesn't itch. The wood tick (or dog tick) which
transmits Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Colorado tick
fever is up to 1/2 inch in size. The deer tick which
transmits Lyme disease is the size of a pinhead.
- Tick removal
The simplest and quickest way to remove a wood tick is
to pull it off. Use tweezers to grasp the tick as close
to the skin as possible (try to get a grip on his head).
Apply a steady upward traction until he releases his
grip. Do not twist the tick or jerk it suddenly because
these maneuvers can break off the tick's head or mouth
parts. Do not squeeze the tweezers to the point of
crushing the tick; the secretions released may contain
germs that cause disease.
If you don't have tweezers, use fingers, a loop of
thread around the jaws, or a needle between the jaws for
traction. Tiny deer ticks need to be scraped off with a
knife blade or the edge of a credit card. If the body
is removed but the head is left in the skin, use a
sterile needle to remove the head (in the same way that
you would remove a sliver). Apply antibiotic ointment
to the bite once.
Wash the wound and your hands with soap and water after
removal. A recent study by Dr. G.R. Needham showed that
embedded ticks do not back out with the application of a
hot match or when covered with petroleum jelly,
fingernail polish, or rubbing alcohol. In the past, it
was thought that petroleum jelly, fingernail polish, or
alcohol would block the tick's breathing pores and take
its mind off eating. Unfortunately, ticks breathe only
a few times per hour.
Children and adults who are hiking in tick-infested
areas should wear long clothing and tuck the end of the
pants into the socks. Apply an insect repellent to
shoes and socks. (Permethrin products are more effective
than DEET products against ticks.) During the hike
perform tick checks using a buddy system every 2 to 3
hours to remove ticks on the clothing or exposed skin.
Immediately after the hike or at least once a day, do a
bare skin check. A brisk shower at the end of a hike
will remove any tick that isn't firmly attached.
Because the bite is painless and doesn't itch, the child
will usually be unaware of its presence. Favorite
hiding places for ticks are in the hair so carefully
check the scalp, neck, armpit, and groin. Removing
ticks promptly may prevent infection because
transmission of Lyme disease requires 18 to 24 hours of
feeding. Also the tick is easier to remove before it
becomes firmly attached.
CALL YOUR CHILD'S PHYSICIAN IMMEDIATELY IF:
- You can't remove the tick or the tick's head.
- Your child has a fever or rash within the 2 weeks
following the bite.
CALL YOUR CHILD'S PHYSICIAN DURING OFFICE HOURS IF:
- You think your child might have Lyme disease.
- You have other questions or concerns.
Written by B.D. Schmitt, M.D., author of "Your Child's Health," Bantam Books.
Copyright 1999 Clinical Reference Systems