Rachel McGuffey, MD, Lexington Clinic Pediatrics

Lexington Clinic PediatricsDuring the summer, pediatricians see many children who have tick bites. While they may seem harmless at first, if not caught in time and treated properly, tick bites may turn into a larger issue for your child.

Ticks are tiny arachnid parasites that live in grass and bushes. They attach to a host by biting them, and remain there until removed, feeding on the host's blood. The tick's secretions can cause local irritation at the bite site, but also can transmit disease, such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme Disease. The longer a tick is attached, the more likely it is to cause disease. That is why it is important to properly remove a tick as soon as possible.

When removing ticks, be sure to remove as much of the tick as you can. If you find a tick crawling on you or your child and it is not attached, use tape or cellophane to remove the tick and dispose of it. This will help prevent disease transmission. If the tick is attached, the best procedure is to use tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible, and then remove it. Avoid using matches to burn the tick off, as this could burn your child.

After the tick has been removed, cleanse the area with soap and water to wash away any of the secretions or remaining tick parts. Applying antibacterial cream for a few days after removal will help prevent infection.

If your child starts running a fever, develops a rash, becomes irritable or has joint swelling after a tick bite, they could have contracted a disease from the tick bite. The signs for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever include fever, rash, nausea and headache. With Lyme Disease, a round rash surrounding the tick bite followed by swollen joints and flu-like symptoms are common. Both diseases require prompt antibacterial treatment to keep the condition from worsening, and your child's pediatrician should be consulted as soon as the first symptoms are noticed.

A tick bite alone can cause redness and swelling around the bite, especially if it occurred on a sensitive body area. If your child's tick bite feels abnormally warm and is painful, or if the redness is spreading, see a pediatrician to check for possible infection.

The key to tick bites is prevention. If you know your child will be in a wooded area, make sure they wear protective clothing and/or bug spray to help prevent any bites, and afterwards, check their hair and body for any ticks. If you own pets, make sure to use preventive spray/medications to help keep ticks off of your pet. Although disease cannot spread from your pet's tick bite, the tick can come off your pet and reattach to you or your child.

If you have any questions about your child's health or think they need to see a physician concerning a tick bite, call a Lexington Clinic pediatrician today. For help finding a pediatrician call 859.258.4DOC (4362) or visit LexingtonClinic.com/peds.