Arkansas has plenty of ticks, and summer fun often leads to tick bites. Hiking off the beaten path, running through fields of tall grass, or meandering through the woods to a favorite swimming hole — you don’t want to give up traditional summer pleasures, but you also don’t want to worry about ticks.
Here’s what you need to know.
Avoid tick bites
Plan ahead. Start with your route and destination.
- Think twice about the tall grass.
- If there’s a path, stick with it.
Dress for success — and here we’re defining “success” as not getting bitten by ticks.
- Dress your kids in light-colored clothes to make it easier to find ticks crawling before they bite.
- Go with long pants and sleeves.
- Tuck their pants legs into their socks.
Use repellents. Ask your pediatrician for a recommendation if you’re not sure of the best kind of repellent for your child.
When you get home, check your children for ticks. Removing them before they get their teeth in is best. Have them bathe or shower as soon as possible.
How to remove ticks
The safest way to remove a tick which has already bitten your child is to grasp it with tweezers as close to the skin as possible and pull it straight out. Before you remove the tick, clean the affected area with alcohol, and wash your hands afterward.
If you twist the tick, you might leave the mouth parts in the skin. You might also squish the tick and push matter into the skin. Both of these things can encourage infection.
For tiny seed ticks that are too small for tweezers or that have not yet bitten your skin, try rolling Scotch tape around your fingers and pressing it on the affected area to remove the tiny creatures.
If part of the tick remains in the skin, try to remove it with the tweezers. However, you should not dig into the skin; this can encourage infection. If the head or mouth parts cannot be removed easily, leave the bite to heal.
You might have heard that you should burn the tick or cover it with Vaseline or other substances. The Centers for Disease Control do not recommend this approach, and Harvard Medical School suggests that these traditional methods can increase chances of infection.
You can save the tick to show your doctor if your child has symptoms of tick-borne disease. If you plan to do this, put the tick into a sealed container and label it with the place and time it bit your child. Otherwise, dispose of the tick in a sealed trash bag or by flushing it down the toilet.
Watch for tick-borne diseases
If your child has a rash or a fever within a few weeks of a tick bite, tell your pediatrician.
There are lots of ticks in Arkansas, but they don’t have to spoil your summer fun. Plan ahead and be vigilant after your outdoor adventures, and you can enjoy summer activities in spite of the ticks.