‘Tis the season for ticks and cases of Lyme disease have already been reported in Berkshire County. We here at Berkshire Family Focus want you to be armed with as much information as possible to help keep you and your family lyme-free this summer.
Lyme disease is the most commonly reported tick-borne disease in Massachusetts. Infected deer ticks spread the bacteria causing Lyme disease by attaching themselves to animals and/or people that come into contact with them.
Ticks mainly live in brushy, wooded, or high grassy areas. Unfortunately, you need to be on the look out for ticks throughout the year. Young ticks (nymphs) are most active during warmer months whereas adult ticks are most active during the fall and spring or when temperatures are above freezing.
Preventing a tick bite is the best means to prevent any tick borne illness such as Lyme disease. A tick repellant is one way to prevent a tick bite. DEET, one type of tick repellant may be used directly on the skin of adults and children over the age of two months. DEET should only be used in concentrations of 10-30% in children. You should apply lower concentrations of DEET, 10-15% if your child is only going to be outside for less than 2 hours and a higher concentration of DEET if your child will be outside for longer than 2 hours. DEET can be used on exposed skin as well as clothing, socks, and shoes but should not be used on the face, under clothing, on cuts, irritated skin, on the face, or on the hands of young children. Do not use a single product containing both sunscreen and DEET. Sunscreen needs to be reapplied at least every 2 hours but DEET should only be applied once a day. Your child’s skin should be washed with soap and water when they come inside and wash all clothing before it is worn again. Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus is a plant based repellant that gives similar to low concentrations of DEET products. It is not recommended for children under 3 years of age. Permethrin products are intended for use on items such as clothing, shoes, and should not be applied to the skin.
Stay on cleared trails when walking or hiking. Wear light colored pants tucked in to your socks or boots when in tick infested areas. Wearing light colored clothes will help you to see ticks easier. Children should bathe or shower after playing outside and clothes should be washed after playing outside. Talk to veterinarian about tick control options (tick collars, repellants) for your pets and your dog should be checked for ticks daily.
The single most important thing you can do is to check your children and yourself for ticks once a day. Unfortunately ticks may be hard to see. Nymphs are the size of a poppy seed and adult ticks are the size of a sesame seed. Look for ticks behind the ears, back of the neck, groin, arm- pits, and behind the knee. If you find a tick attached to skin, remove it as soon as possible. The longer an infected tick remains attached to a person, the higher the incidence of developing a tick borne illness. Use fine tipped tweezers; grasp the head of the tick close to the skin. Do not twist the tick, or rock it from side to side while removing it. Put the tick in alcohol to kill it. You may save the tick in a baggy for identification. Swab the bite with alcohol and wash your hands with soap and water. Circle the calendar date and note where on the body the tick was removed.
Call your child’s primary care provider if a tick has bitten your child or you believe that the tick may have been on the skin for more than 24 hours and if part of the tick remains in the skin after attempted removal.
Symptoms of early Lyme disease usually begin to appear from 3 to 30 days after being bitten by a tick. Call your primary care provider for the development of a rash of any kind, if the child develops any flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, chills, muscle, or joint pains or if the tick bite looks infected (increasing redness, warmth, pain). Treatment during the early stage prevents later, more