Ticks and spiders are both arachnids, but their method of attacking the skin is very different. While a spider merely bites, a tick burrows under the skin to gorge itself on blood. Sometimes ticks on the body can go unnoticed for a few days, which is why it is important to do a body check of your kids when they have been playing outside in the spring and summer. Ticks like hiding places— under your child’s hair, between the toes, etc. After it is finished feeding, the tick will drop off the body.
How to remove a tick? Very carefully! See this brief description from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about safe removal.
There are a few tick-borne diseases that can be very serious.
Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) is carried by the dog tick or wood tick, which is usually about a quarter inch long. The disease is caused by a particular type of bacteria, and the symptoms, according to an American Academy of Pediatrics ( AAP) article, include: “Flu-like symptoms such as fever, muscle pain, severe headaches, vomiting, nausea, and loss of appetite. A rash develops in most cases of RMSF, typically before the sixth day of the illness. This rash tends to appear first on the wrists and ankles, but within hours it can spread to the torso. It can also spread to the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. The rash is red, spotted, and raised. Other symptoms may include joint pain, stomach pain, and diarrhea. In severe cases, the blood pressure can drop and the patient may become confused. As the infection spreads, many organs, including the brain, can be affected.”
If your child has any of these symptoms and you suspect a tick bite, call your pediatrician immediately.
Lyme disease is most common in the Northeast, North Central, and West Coast states. It is spread by deer ticks. The most common symptom is what is sometimes called a “bull’s-eye” rash. This rash is a pink or red circle that can expand over time, even to a diameter of several inches. Another AAP article lists further symptoms:
- Swollen glands, usually in the neck or groin
- Aches and pains in the muscles or joints.”
Lyme disease is very treatable in most cases, but if left untreated can cause long-term health problems.
There is also another tick-borne disease that presents itself a little like Lyme disease. It’s called STARI (Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness) and is most prevalent in, as you may guess, more southern states like ours. The organism that causes this disease is, as yet, unknown, but it is carried by the lone star tick. The rash is similar to the one caused by Lyme disease (see above) and other symptoms according to the CDC include “fatigue, fever, headache, muscle and joint pains.” If your child presents with any of these symptoms and you suspect she has been bitten by a tick, contact your pediatrician immediately. For easy-to-read information about STARI, there is a good series of short articles from the CDC here.
Use insect repellent and avoid places where ticks live, when possible. Have a safe and enjoyable rest of the summer and fall!
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