Tick bites in kids

Let’s talk about the creepy crawlies that we try and avoid all year… TICKS. They are gross little creatures. Ticks like to bite kids and can transmit diseases. But don’t panic—the first step in avoiding tick bites on kids is to keep them off all together. 

Wearing long pants, high socks and clothing that covers skin will help to protect you and your kids from unwanted tick bites. Staying out of brush and high grasses, and walking on the path will keep some of those creepies from getting on your kids and you!

But, let’s be real… keeping your kiddos out of the grass and brush might not be realistic. You may not have a lawn service and may be out in the grass and woods. Also pets can bring these ticks into the home. Ticks fall off trees and they creep on low branches. They can be teeny tiny and easy to miss, especially on babies and younger kids. 

How to prevent tick bites in kids

Now, let’s talk about how to decrease the risk of tick bites in kids. 

According to the CDC, to avoid tick bites, kids and adults should “use tick repellent products containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone.” Always follow product instructions. The CDC also advises that it is important not to use this repellent on babies younger than 2 months old, and to avoid products containing OLE or PMD on children under 3 years old. Read up more on how to protect yourself here.

If you know you will be out for a hike, get those dorky socks out. Protect yourself and your kids. And hey, tall socks are back in style now anyways!

(Anyone feel like they have ticks crawling all over them yet? I do!)

Showering and skin checks after outdoor activity are very important steps to take. Check behind the kid’s ears, in the hair and hairline, under armpits and between the “cheeks”– butt cheeks that is! Ticks don’t discriminate where they bite, but they do like a dark warm spot or a place they can hide. 

The tick bite

When you find a tick attached to your body or a child’s body—stay calm. Please DO NOT smother the tick, light it on fire, paint it with nail polish, or try and get it to come out with chemicals. This can cause the tick to regurgitate or break apart and spread disease. Also, it is NEVER a good idea to light a flame close to the skin, regardless of what the neighbor says! You will end up with a tick bite AND a burn. Keep the flames away!

Also, quick! Take a pic! Save the photo to show your provider in the event they decide to treat you… or keep it for your mantle 😉 

How to remove a tick from kids

Let’s get that tick off your kid! You will need a pair of tweezers. If you are taking the tick off of a child, wrap them up in a bath towel like a burrito to keep them still. Grab the tick as close to your skin as you can and pull the tick upward steadily. Do not twist or yank the tick. Slow and steady! If you don’t have tweezers, a paper towel works well. Avoid crushing or dismantling the tick, which could release its nasty germs. 

Once the tick is removed, dispose of the tick in a baggie, toilet or between a piece of tape. What does the tick look like? (Shudder) How large is the tick? (Think tip of a pen or tip of eraser) How full does it appear? (Fat and gross, or flat and legs flailing…still gross) What color is it? (Black, brown, red, purple?)

Next give your skin a good wash with soap and water. Apply some Neosporin or generic triple antibiotic ointment to the site. Remember, you were bit by a tick, so some redness at the bite mark is normal. However, a rash that forms in a ring-like pattern can be a sign of disease, so keep your eye out for any rashes. Let the worrying begin! Note that you may not see the symptoms of the disease for weeks after the bite appears. Specifically, the bullseye rash may appear at least two weeks after the bite, and not necessarily in the spot the tick bit.

Lyme disease often comes up as a concern. The good news is that ticks need to be firmly attached to the skin for at least 48 hours in order to have a chance of transmitting the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. And ticks can take time, up to 24 hours, to attach to the skin and access blood. So unless the tick has been attached for a couple of days, the risk of Lyme disease is low. This is why it is so important to inspect for ticks. When in doubt, check with your primary care provider after going outside.

WARNING: sometimes a small piece of the tick, like the teeth, can get stuck in the skin! (Ewww!) Do not try to remove it and put your child through pain. DO NOT go to the ER to get it removed. This is normal and your child’s skin will slowly push out whatever debris is left from the tick. You’ve already removed the important part so don’t worry about the left over debris causing an infection or even worse, getting into the skin… It doesn’t work that way. If the tick is there, you will see it. It won’t burrow under the skin. 

Identify the type of tick

Here is where the experts come in. What I do know about ticks is that they can spread disease. Some are more likely to spread than others. Your local MD and NP can help you to identify your risk for disease. You should call your local urgent care or primary care office for the best advice. 

It all depends on where you live, as some ticks only live in certain areas of the country. If you want to try and look yourself, the following map can help you narrow down what you are looking for. Take your learnings from what I’ve specified above and check out this map and attributes of the tick to figure out which kind of tick may have bitten you.

Is treatment needed for a tick bite in kids?

Besides identifying if this tick can even cause disease, let’s talk about how to know if you need to worry about treatment. 

Was the tick on the body for less than 36 hours? If so, it’s unlikely that treatment is needed. Phew! Most of the time you will notice the tick on the body before 36 hours has passed.

There is a long list of tick borne illness that can be found on the CDC website. Don’t get overwhelmed!  The bad guys are usually only in a few regions and you likely won’t have to worry about more than a few of these!  

Symptoms of tick disease in kids

Now just because you were bitten by a tick doesn’t mean you have a disease. However, disease from ticks can be hard to diagnose and easy to miss. It can also make you very sick, so make sure to take tick bites seriously. Once diagnosed, they are usually easy to treat with antibiotics. If your kid has had a tick bite and now days later he/she is starting to feel ill, then it’s best to get checked out. Better to be safe than to miss a tick-borne disease. 

Most illness will present as a flu-like illness. You may have fever or chills. You may be achy and feel awful. Some people will get a headache or joint pain. You may have a mild or high fever. Some become more sick than others. Some require hospitalization, and some can be treated at home with no problem. Also, there are some distinct rashes that accompany many of the tick borne diseases. If you notice any sort of rash, it’s time to get checked out!

Our Nurse-1-1 nurses can help you to determine your need for an appointment, as well. Feel free to ask us and send along a photo of your rash or bite.

Take tick bites seriously. Prevent, prevent, prevent. Get that spray out and cover that skin. Do tick checks EVERY night and after coming inside. Now go check your hair because you know you are itching! 🙂

Nurse-1-1 Health Center is written by nurses in a straight to the point type of way to provide basic health information. We get a lot of people like you searching online for answers to health concerns or looking for a hotline to ask a nurse a few questions. Questions like, I have been suffering from headache and fatigue for a while. Should I be worried? What is the the difference between a common cold vs flu? Is fever in kids bad? Well we can help. We put some info here for you to find while searching through all that other dry, scary medical information online. Stop that. Read our posts, or chat with us. This is not medical advice or a replacement for medical care, but see what we have to say with our free health information, and hopefully it will stop you from scaring yourself any more than you already have. We can help.