How To Remove Ticks From Kids

Questing female Ixodes scapularis, the Blacklegged Tick  Location: Watchung Reservation, Union County, New Jersey Date: 20 October 2012 Photographer: James L. Occi

Questing female Ixodes scapularis, the Blacklegged Tick
Location: Watchung Reservation, Union County, New Jersey
Date: 20 October 2012
Photographer: James L. Occi

Whether we like it or not, ticks are common spring and summer occurrences for outdoors-loving families. If your kids get one, what do you do? Recently, I had the unpleasant surprise of finding two ticks in a single day on each of my girls.

As potential disease-carriers, ticks need to be removed as fast as possible. With prompt tweezer action, I got rid of the beasties and dispatched them to faraway pastures. If you’ve never done this before, you might want to read this so that you are prepared and know how to remove ticks from kids. It’s very easy, as long as you know the steps.

What You Need

– Tweezers – I always have tweezers in my hiking/camping kit. You can also use the small tweezers from Swiss army knives but they’re not as easy to use for ticks.

– Antiseptic or rubbing alcohol to disinfect the skin after tick removal

How To Spot Ticks

From far, ticks can look like bumpy freckles on a child’s skin. Only if you look closer, you will notice tiny legs and the skin will be red around the tick (like a rash). When you do spot the tick, don’t freak out! I know it’s an unpleasant situation, but you need to act fast and not make your kids feel like you can’t handle it. Time to parent up and stay in control!

How To Remove Ticks

removal-ab

Removing ticks with tweezers. Picture courtesy of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.

 

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following method for removing ticks and it’s the one I used with my girls:

  1. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grab the tick as close as possible to the skin’s surface (without pinching the skin)
  2. Pull upward with steady even pressure. Don’t let go as it might cause the tick to burrow deeper and release toxins under the skin. If you see mouth parts left in the skin, try to remove them too.
  3. Disinfect the skin around the tick bite.
  4. Get rid of the tick (flushing down the toilet, wrapping in tape, submersing in alcohol).

TIP 1: Hold it steady

The first time I did it, my hand was a bit unsteady and I did let go, which made the tick dig deeper in my daughter’s leg. I was successful on second attempt, but it was a close call and reminded me not to waver the following time. For the second tick, I was much more forceful and removed it in a single pull.

Honestly, it’s easier on everybody’s nerves if you can do it all in one shot, particularly if your kids (or you) are scared of ticks.

TIP 2: Be Calm

Kids are naturally squirmy but if they sense that you’re anxious, they will have an even harder time staying still. Yet, you’ll need them completely still for a complete and efficient tick removal.

Tell them that it won’t hurt (it’s true) and that it’ll be done in less than a minute (true too). You can even have your kids count down from 10 and surprise them as you remove the tick before zero.

To Avoid Ticks in the Future

Here are some easy steps to avoid ticks on your next adventures outdoors with the kids

  • Avoid damp wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter (walk on trails, if there are any, preferably in the center where grass isn’t as high)
  • Wear long trousers and high socks
  • Wear light-colored clothing – makes tick-spotting easier
  • Some recommend DEET-based insect repellents, but DEET is so bad for your skin that I avoid it on my daughters anyway
  • As soon as you get home from your outing–say before bathtime–do a full-on body check to spot any beasties. The sooner you spot them, the easier they are to remove!

To Learn More

There are different types of ticks and some ticks can carry diseases that are harmful to humans. If you want to learn more about those, please check:

– the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s tick pages

– the Lyme Disease Association

Enjoy The Outdoors!

Ticks are a nuisance but they shouldn’t prevent your family from enjoying the outdoors. It’s a manageable risk if you have the right knowledge. As long as you have a sharp eye and carry tweezers in your outdoors kit, you’ll be OK. Enjoy the outdoors!

Have you ever spotted ticks on your kids? If yes, how did it go and do you have anything else to share that could be useful for other families?

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Laure Latham

Laure is an author, environmental advocate, blogger, open water swimmer and now mother. She's passionate about inspiring families to enjoy the outdoors with their children, learning to unplug and living a healthy lifestyle, giving kids life skills and exploring the world around us sharing Family Friendly, Fun Ideas for the whole family on Frog Mom.

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