Ticks are small and often difficult to detect, but their saliva (which is transmitted while they suck human blood) spreads diseases, including Lyme's. Did you know that ticks are the leading parasite to spread disease among humans in the US, and that they're second only to mosquitos globally? Parents have plenty of reasons to learn about ticks!
Ticks and their habitat
Ticks, like spiders, are arthropods. There are over 800 different species of ticks, but there are two families of ticks that humans should take special notice of. These are soft ticks and hard ticks, scientifically known as Ixodidae and Argasidae. Soft ticks have characteristic round bodies and, while it takes them about an hour to feed once they bite, disease can be spread in less than a minute! Hard ticks feed for much longer stretches of time up to days. But they tend to excrete their saliva at the end of the feed. Ticks can be found in most natural environments including woods and parks. Urban areas are less prone to ticks. We recommend that parents take their young kids' clothes of and check them completely after a visit to the woods. Contrary to popular belief, ticks do not just drop from trees they can also climb up legs from the ground.
What diseases do ticks spread?
The single most worrying disease ticks can spread is Lyme Disease. This is spread by Ixodes species of ticks, and caused by the Borrelia bacterium. Lyme Disease can be extremely serious symptoms can include skin-rash, flu symptoms, joint pain, swelling, confusion, paralysis of the facial muscles and meningitis. Various species of ticks also spread Babesiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tick-borne relapsing fever and Colorado tick fever, among others.
Checking for ticks and extraction
Checking for ticks is not hard. When you or your child feels a bug crawl around the body during a visit to the woods, it is best to see what is going on immediately so you can catch the tick before it latches on. Ticks like to nestle in sensitive spots like arm pits, behind the ear, or genital areas. If you do notice a tick on your child's body, know that extraction within 24 hours usually keeps risk of disease to a minimum. How do you take a tick out? Hold them by their head, and then pull firmly. If you are unsure, and are able to see a doctor right away, a doctor can also extract a tick.
Dot make twisting movements, which can provoke ticks to release their toxins. Or, if you do twist, make very sure not to pinch the tick's body as you do it. There are special tick-removal devices on the market these days as well. If you notice any unusual symptoms following tick removal, seek medical attention. Are you interested in other summer-related parenting topics? Also look at remedies for heat rash in babies.