According to the Centres for Disease Control, Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in Canada and is actually the fastest growing infectious disease, meaning it is becoming more common as the ticks get worse every year. While these poppy seed-sized bugs are rarely found in big cities, rural areas and especially summer camps have an abundance of them, and it is proven that there is a higher infection rate of tick-borne diseases in children aged two to 14. Parents should therefore be well-prepared for tick-prevention and removal while packing their child’s travel bag for camp or any outdoor excursion.
Here’s what should be included in any tick-prevention and removal kit:
- Tick-repellant clothing: There are many brands, including Insect Shield and ElimiTick that are effective for tick-prevention for up to 70 washes. There are also certain tick sprays with a clothing-safe insecticide called permethrin that repels and kills ticks, which is a great alternative. Footwear, socks and sleeping bags should also be sprayed, for further prevention.
- Maximum coverage clothing: The smaller the amount of skin exposed means the fewer places a tick can attack. Even if it is hot, children should bring long pants, a long sleeved shirt, and a hat. Lighter, untreated fabrics are also a bonus.
- Insect repellent: A repellent approved by the EPA is important. DEET is well-known but not recommended for children, so a spray like Buzz Away Extreme or Avon Skin So Soft Bug Guard might be better alternatives.
- Re-sealable bags: Upon their return from any outdoor adventure, a child should place all used clothing in a re-sealable bag until they can be put in the dryer, which would kill any ticks. Ensuring the bag is sealed prevents ticks from being transported to another location.
- Soap: Ticks are very small and difficult to see. Showering immediately after being outside will help spot and remove unattached ticks. Get your children in the habit of inspecting themselves for ticks (or other unwanted bugs) while in the bath.
- Tweezers: To remove ticks that are attached, use fine-tipped tweezers. Make sure you grab the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible and that you pull upward in a steady motion. After ensuring you got the whole tick (including the mouth), clean your hands and the surface with soap and water or rubbing alcohol, to prevent infection. Do not use heat or pretroleum jelly to try and detach the tick — the goal is to remove them, not wait them out.
Lyme disease is preventable with the proper precautions. Following these tips will help keep yourself and your children safe this summer. For more information about Lyme disease, tick-prevention and the Tick-Borne Disease Alliance (TBDA), please visit www.TBDAlliance.org.
A version of this article appeared online on July 17, 2012.