Wherever there are furry mammals in the wild, there will be ticks. Were it not for the fact that these creatures can infect humans with disease, they would simply be a nuisance. Unfortunately, most areas of the US harbor at least one or more tick-borne diseases.

A female tick's function in life is to latch onto a suitable host and obtain a meal of blood so that she can produce more little baby tick-lets. This she does by hanging out on the vegetation, waiting for a warm-blooded creature to brush by her particular leaf of grass or whatever. Ticks are well adapted to clinging to animal fur; the tick then makes its way to a suitable site on the animal's body to settle down, burrow in and engorge itself on a blood meal.

This adaptation makes ticks also very adept at latching onto clothing, from whence they seek out warm, protected places on the body to engage in their feeding behavior. While the vast majority of tick bites lead to no harm to the host, it is a good idea to remove and dispose of ticks properly, and to be aware of the possibility of infection.

To properly remove an embedded tick, certain precautions should be taken:

  • Using a pair of tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible
  • pull gently but firmly straight away from the skin, trying to pull the embedded head out rather than jerking it off
  • dispose of the tick without touching it
  • rub the site of the bite with alcohol to disinfect it
  • clean the tweezers thoroughly with alcohol to likewise disinfect them
  • wash your own hands thoroughly
  • do not worry about any tiny amounts of the head still embedded in the skin; it is nearly impossible to completely pull out all the mouth parts of the tick, and not really necessary
  • remember the tick bite and report it to your child's doctor if your child develops symptoms of illness, especially fever or rash in the days following removal of the tick

Be aware that tick bites on the scalp almost always result in swelling of the nearest lymph node, generally behind the ear or just above the nape of the neck, and always on the same side as the bite (just as happens with other sores on the scalp). These are usually small - about one-half inch or less in diameter - and roll around under the skin when you feel them (i.e., "mobile"). They may be mildly tender to touch, but the skin should not be red over the node. If it is, or you have any doubt about the swelling, call your child's doctor.

There is a summary table of tick-borne diseases in the United States on another page, as well as an article on tick paralysis.

Night, Night! Dr. Hull's Common Sense Sleep Solutions© Copyright© Site Information/Disclaimer