Preventing Lyme Disease In Outdoorsy Children

If your kids enjoy exploring the outdoors, you'll need to take some precautions to protect them from lyme disease. Lyme disease is an infectious disease that is usually treatable with antibiotics. However, if it is left untreated, it can cause infection in the joints, nervous system, and heart. Patients can eventually be disabled by the disease if it is not adequately treated. 

According the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 300,000 Americans are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year. The risk of contracting the disease is especially high for those living in the Northeast and the upper Midwest of the country. Lyme disease is contracted by humans by being bitten by blacklegged ticks that are infected with the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi.

Kids who enjoy hiking in wooded areas are likely to experience tick bites at some point. The following tips allow kids to continue enjoying outdoor activities with a minimized risk of contracting Lyme disease:

  • Avoid ticks' favorite habitats- Enjoy the outdoors while keeping an eye out for habitats that are likely to harbor a dense tick population. Ticks like to live in moist environments with lots of shade. They also prefer a habitat with a lot of low lying vegetation and leaf litter. 
  • Dress appropriately- Tick bites can be prevented with clothing that keeps skin covered. Wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts is a good idea. Also, pant legs can be tucked into socks to prevent ticks from crawling onto the legs. By wearing light colored clothing, kids can more easily find ticks on their clothing and remove them before they have embedded themselves in the skin. 
  • Check for ticks after an outing- Usually, ticks crawl around on the body for some time before choosing a place to bite. This means that kids have some time after an outing to catch them before they become embedded in the skin. If you live in a high risk area, kids should learn to check their bodies for ticks or even shower to remove ticks immediately after coming home. 
  • Use insect repellent- Insect repellent reduces the chances that ticks will bite. Effective repellents for controlling ticks contain substances like DEET or permethrin. It's important to instruct kids on proper repellent use to ensure that they are safe from the toxicity of some types of repellents.
  • Learn to properly remove ticks- The chances that a child will develop lyme disease are drastically reduced when ticks are removed within 24 hours. Removing ticks is not always easy, but kids should learn how to remove them with tweezers to minimize their risks. 

Always keep an eye on any tick bites for signs of Lyme disease, such as a rash or fever. If symptoms arise, contact a pediatrician such as Bloom Paul.