Tick Tock, Ticks!

It’s tick time. Summertime is the time of the year to enjoy the outdoors. It’s also the time when the habitats of children and ticks overlap. Whether you enjoy hiking or camping in the Great Smoky Mountains like my kids and I do or playing in the backyard with your kids and pets, you may be exposed to ticks. Ticks can transmit disease and depending where you live or visit in the USA, different diseases can be spread by tick bites.

Here in the Appalachian Mountains, the most common is Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever transmitted by the dog tick, which is about 1/2 inch in size. Over towards Nashville and the Cumberland Plateau, Ehrlichiosis is more commonly spread by a variety of ticks. In the Northeast and Upper Midwest, Lyme disease is the most commonly transmitted tick borne disease. It’s spread by the small tick called Ixodes scapularis which is about the size of a pinhead. All over the Southeast, there is a newer illness called STARI which is the Southern Tick Associated Rash Illness spread by the Lone Star tick – also about ½ inch in size.

                                                                              Once a tick is attached and feeds on you for at least 72 hours, the little buggers can transmit these diseases. Most symptoms that you will encounter are fever, headache, nausea, muscle or joint pain and rash.  Think of it as summertime flu symptoms. Most symptoms start anywhere from 2 to 14 days after the bite.

How can you help prevent tick bites? Be aware of the areas where ticks live. Most ticks prefer dense woods with thick growth of shrubs and small trees as well as along the edges of woods where the woods abut lawns. Ticks require humidity to survive, and drier areas usually are less infested. When outdoors your child should wear long-sleeved shirts tucked into his or her pants. The pants should be tucked into socks or boots. Use an insect repellent containing permethrin on clothing to repel ticks and other insects but don’t apply this to skin. DEET containing products from 5-30% helps prevent both ticks and mosquito but don’t use it on babies under 2 months of age. During a hike or camping, do tick checks using a buddy system every 4 hours. After a full day do a bare skin check and shower to remove any ticks that are not firmly attached.

Tick bites are painless and don’t itch.  Favorite hiding places for ticks are in the hair, so check the scalp, neck, armpit and groin. To remove a tick, get a tweezer and apply pressure right behind the head and lift straight up after it releases. If any part of the tick is still there, scrape it off and then wash with soap and water. Also check your pets, especially dogs for ticks daily. You can save the tick for inspection later by keeping it in a glass jar.  More on tick removal from the AAP.

Remember, if you develop any of these symptoms such as fever, rash or headache after a tick bite, please call your pediatrician’s office. How to treat tick bites.


BOO to the Flu!

Well, it’s here, no doubt about it. The dreaded FLU! All around Knoxville and surrounding counties, schools are closing due to illness in both the students and the teachers. Here is a little information on the facts of the flu…

  • Influenza (“the flu”) is a VIRAL illness.
  • Symptoms may include: fever, cough, headache and or body aches, sore throat, runny nose, congestion, redness and watering of the eyes, and occasional vomiting and abdominal pain.
  • Influenza IS NOT “ the stomach bug” … although many kids’ first sign is vomiting.
  • The flu can be contagious for up to 1 – 2 DAYS BEFORE SYMPTOMS START and for several days after the onset of symptoms.
  • Prevention from the flu includes receiving a yearly flu vaccine, hand washing and avoiding contact when possible with those infected with the flu.
  • The flu is spread from person to person thru contact with respiratory secretions. It can also be spread by coming in contact with those secretions on objects.
  • There is a test to determine if you have the flu. This test is done thru a nasal swab and usually can be done in the outpatient office within 10 minutes. A flu test is not always required as a doctor may determine the diagnosis by physical exam.
  • Most people with the flu have a mild self-limited, uncomplicated disease. Treatment would include rest, lots of fluids and tylenol or ibuprofen for fever or aches.
  • Certain groups of people may be at risk for more serious complications. This group includes those that have a weakened immune system, have chronic lung disease, those that have diabetes, possibly those with a neurological problems, and the very young.
  • Some children with the flu may be prescribed an antiviral called tamiflu. It does NOT treat the flu and is not required . It may shorten the duration of symptoms. It should be started within 48 hours of the onset of the illness.
  • We typically do not give “prevention” from the flu thru tamiflu unless the child is in at “at risk” population.
  • If your child has the flu and has: worsening fever or pain, lethargy, unable to keep fluids down or if you have any concern, please call your pediatrician for further evaluation.