What should I do if my child gets a tick?

Advice on how to remove a tick safely from your child's skin

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Ticks are tiny, spider-like insects that live in tall grass, woodland and heath areas and, while the majority of them are harmless, some do carry bacteria that cause disease – the nastiest of which is Lyme disease.

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If your child is bitten by a tick, it’s important to remove it quickly and correctly, as the risk of disease infecting your child increases the longer the tick is attached to your child’s body.

If you’ve gone for a family walk through woods or tall grass, do check your child to see if they have a tick on them. If they do, it’ll look like the tick below – though obviously not that big; it’ll be about the size of a poppy seed – and you’ll probably find it above the waist or in the scalp/hairline (unlike with adults, who tend to be bitten on the legs).

Tick bites are painless, so your child won’t know they’ve been bitten. If you do find a tick on your child, here’s what to do…

What to do if you find a tick

  • If you, your child (or your dog) has a tick, you should grasp the tick with tweezers as close to your child’s (or your dog’s) skin as possible and pull upwards with steady, even pressure. 
  • Try not to twist or jerk it, squeeze it or handle it. The idea is to get the whole tick out, without leaving any trace behind.
  • Afterwards, clean the area with an antiseptic wipe.
  • You might want to keep the tick somewhere for future examination in case your child falls ill, and you want your GP to consider exposure to Lyme disease.

There’s lots more info about ticks on the Borreliosis and Associated Diseases Awareness UK (BADA) website

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How can I stop ticks getting onto my child’s skin?

If you’re going for a woodland walk where there may be the possibility of ticks (take a look at the UK’s tick hotspots), try and keep to these guidelines – or as many of them as you can:

1. Stick to the path

Ticks can’t jump or fly, so it will take direct contact with the foliage they’re in for them to attach to you. So keeping to footpaths as much as possible will really make a difference.

2. Cover up

Wearing long sleeves and long trousers when you’re walking in long grass will help make sure direct contact is avoided between your skin and ticks. In addition, if you can, wear light-coloured clothes as these will show up any ticks that might have got on your clothes.

3. Spray time

If you’ll be on a holiday or day out where you’re likely to be heading through long grass, it might be worth investing in a repellent spray. Check with your pharmacist who should be able to advise. Alternatively, you can get wrist bands that do the same job and might be handier than trying to spray a child who won’t stand still ?

4. Spot check

Check everyone over at the end of the day to make sure no ticks have got on you. Remember to do the same if you’re out with a furry friend too, as they’re lower to the ground, and probably don’t stick to the paths so much.

Tick hotspots

There are said to be certain hotspots for ticks in the UK – these areas are:

  • Exmoor
  • The New Forest and other rural areas of Hampshire
  • The South Downs
  • Parts of Wiltshire and Berkshire
  • Parts of Surrey and West Sussex
  • Thetford Forest in Norfolk
  • The Lake District
  • The North York Moors
  • The Scottish Highlands

If your child has developed a rash

A bullseye rash – a big, round, red rash– could mean your child has contracted Lyme disease from a tick. If you see a rash like this on your child, you need to see a doctor as soon as possible.

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