My Daughter has a Tick!

Apr 22, 2000

Now that springtime is here in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, it is time to think about ticks again. I will never forget the first time I found one on one of my kids. I get shivers just thinking about it! In this area the ticks are generally brown in color and about the size of a small raisin. For some reason, my blonde kids really attract the critters, too.

The first time, I came close to panicking. All the Old Wives Tales I had ever heard about getting a tick out came to mind. Burn it out. Put a hot match next to it and it will back out. Hmmm. The hot match did nothing for the tick and singed my finger as well as seriously upsetting my child. Finally, I called the doctor.

His advice was to take a tweezers and grip the tick very close to the scalp, then pull out gently with equal pressure. This enables you to get the entire tick out, including the head. It is sometimes tricky to get the child to sit still long enough to get the critter out, but now that the kids have gotten older they are more cooperative as they don't particularly like having a tick in their head anymore than I do.

The first tick we took to the health department. Not a deer tick. Just a regular old garden-variety tick. Very common in the spring especially in this area. So I decided to learn everything I could about the nasty little things, especially considering their apparent taste for my children.

Ticks do not "fall out of trees onto people's heads". On the contrary, they are generally found in weeds along game trails. A tick can crawl up to the top of the weed and actually go dormant until a person or animal comes along, at which point it will hop on for the ride. With a person, the tick will generally work its way up to the head over a period of hours, finally embedding itself into the scalp. I have found that the back of the neck is a popular spot. It is good to know that ticks take a while to get in place, though, and making sure that the kids wear light colored clothing when playing out in the weeds will help you to spot ticks. We get in the habit of checking heads daily during spring and summer around here.

Heads are not the only place a tick will embed. Over the past seven years of living in this house, we have found them 1) in my thigh, 2) in one child's belly button, 3) on another child's neck, and 4) in another child's groin area. A bath is a good thing after a hard day at play, and makes it easier to check the entire body for ticks.

It is next to impossible to squash a tick. (It is a long story). I have found that the quickest way to get rid of them is to flush them down the toilet. (I used to have nightmares about teenage mutant ninja ticks growing in my septic tank, but so far so good). The kids are fascinated with them, but you do not want to leave a live tick crawling around the house. It is just a matter of time before it crawls onto another person and takes a bite.

Also, check your animals for ticks. If they run around in tall weeds, chances are the ticks might wander into their fur. I have pulled many a tick off the dogs.

There are plenty of products on the market which claim to repel ticks. I have bought them on and off, but I have never been able to correlate a tick-free day with the use of a particular product. I tend to think it is better to keep the chemicals off the kids and just keep an eye out for ticks.

When a tick is embedded, it drinks the blood of its host. The larger the swelling of the tick's body when you find it, the longer it has been there. Ideally, you want to catch it right away to avoid the risk of infection.

Even those these are not deer ticks, they can still cause health upsets. At one point my daughter developed swollen lymph glands all over her head. The doctor was quite concerned (imagining a blood disorder, I think) until I mentioned a tick bite a week or so prior. He was visibly relieved when I relayed this information to him, and it took several more weeks before her head was back to normal.

Outdoor play is very fun for kids, but things like ticks need to be watched out for and dealt with as soon as possible. Make a game out of checking for ticks. My 14 year old found the first one of the season on her 7 year old sister just two days ago. Tick season is here again!

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