Lyme disease can affect anyone, regardless of age or gender. However, those who spend a lot of time outdoors are at a higher risk for Lyme disease because they are exposed to ticks more than others. According to research, children are more commonly affected by Lyme disease because they spend more time outside playing. Additionally, reported cases of Lyme disease are higher among boys than girls, typically occurring in boys who are between the ages of five years old and nine years old.
Lyme disease is caused by bacteria transmitted by the deer tick (Ixodes scapularis) . Lyme disease may cause symptoms affecting the skin, nervous system, heart and/or joints of an individual. Over 98,500 cases have been reported in New York State alone since Lyme disease became reportable in 1986.
Who gets Lyme disease?
The chances of being bitten by a deer tick are greater during times of the year when ticks are most active. Young deer ticks, called nymphs, are active from mid-May to mid-August and are about the size of poppy seeds. Adult ticks, which are approximately the size of sesame seeds, are most active from March to mid-May and from mid-August to November. Both nymphs and adults can transmit Lyme disease. Ticks can be active any time the temperature is above freezing.
How to protect your child from tick bites
Physical activity is necessary for normal childhood development, therefore, removing your child from the outdoors as a means of protection is not wise. The good news, however, is that a tick bite does not automatically mean that your child contracted Lyme disease. First, not all ticks are infected with the the bacteria responsible for transmission of Lyme disease. Second, the tick must be attached to the skin for more than 24 hours for it to transfer the bacteria.
Advise your child to steer clear from bushy areas and places where the grass is high. Ticks don't fly, they can only crawl, therefore, do your best to avoid large amounts of foliage.
Insect repellents are also available in several varieties and these will protect you from most tick bites.
When they inside
You may reduce the chances of getting a tick bite by following the recommendations listed previously, but a tick may still very well make its way onto their skin, and further action is necessary just to be sure. A shower within two hours from the time your child comes back home is advised. Besides the shower, also conduct a thorough search of their body including creases and in the hair. By showering, you reduce chances of the ticks attaching themselves to your child’s skin.
It helps if you child wears light coloured clothing because it will help you spot a tick. If you do not have time to go through the clothes thoroughly, drying the clothes in high heat for about six minutes will kill a tick that can potentially be attached. Also treating clothes with 0.5% permethrin will repel insects for a long time, even through several washes.
Ticks are often found on dogs and cats and while holding or petting your pet, the tick can your dog or cat, can also attach to pets, and while holding these pets, the deer ticks can be transferred onto the child's skin. You should often check your pets for ticks and wash them regularly to prevent them from hosting ticks.
What to do when you spot a tick
After checking and spotting a tick attached, you have to remove it before it transmits the bacteria. It’s best to use tweezers to pull the tick out of the skin, remembering to start as close to the skin as much as possible and avoiding crushing the tick’s body.