Summertime pleasures bring warnings of Lyme disease

‘Tis the season for camping, hiking and other outdoor activities – all fun experiences that unfortunately put children at increased risk for Lyme disease. Lyme disease – which is transmitted by the bite of a deer tick – is prevalent in Connecticut from April through September. While easily treatable if detected early, Lyme disease can lead to serious medical complications if left untreated.

“Experiencing nature as a family is a summertime pleasure. Thankfully, children and adults can enjoy the outdoors and avoid tick bites by taking a few precautions ,” said Arielle Ornstein, MD, a pediatrician with Northeast Medical Group Pediatrics at 90 South Ridge St., Rye Brook, NY.

Dr. Ornstein offers this advice to keep children and parents safe.

  • Use bug repellant containing 20 - 30 percent DEET on skin and clothing for optimal protection. DEET is safe to use on children and the only real way to repel ticks.
  • Wear protective clothing such as hats, long pants, long-sleeve shirts, long socks and closed-toe shoes, especially in high-tick areas. You can also treat clothing with a repellent called permethrin. Wear white or light-colored clothes to easily spot ticks.
  • Perform daily tick checks by focusing on common tick attachment sites such as the scalp, armpits, groin area, back of knees and waist. Ticks like to hide in those hidden, warm areas. Look for any new scabs or small pimples – these could actually be ticks. Adult ticks are about the size of a sesame seed; baby ticks can be the size of a period.
  • Bathing soon after being outdoors is a good idea so you can do a full body check.
  • If you find a tick, don’t panic. Grasp the tick with a tweezer very close to the skin. Remove the tick gently, but firmly, to keep the body and head intact. Clean the area with warm water and soap. Look for a bullseye rash known as erythema migrans, which is the classic telltale sign of Lyme disease.

If your child was bitten by a tick and has no rash, your pediatrician may recommend a one-time prophylactic antibiotic treatment to prevent the progression of the disease, said Dr. Ornstein. Children who develop rashes after a tick bite may need two to three weeks of antibiotics.

“The good news is that the risk of developing Lyme disease from a tick bite is small, especially if children and parents take the right safeguards,” said Ornstein.