In North Carolina, ticks are found year-round, but are most active from early spring to late fall. If your child is out playing and then you find a tick on their scalp, don’t panic. Follow these steps from Dr. Margaret Lubega of First Pediatric Care Center in Gastonia, North Carolina.
Remove the tick safely and completely
Usually, tick bites are harmless, but certain types in North Carolina do carry the germs that transmit disease like Lyme disease or STARI (Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness).
When removing a tick, use tweezers and grasp the tick firmly where it is attached to the skin. This is the head or mouth.
Pull steadily and firmly to get the tick to release your child's skin. Avoid twisting or wiggling it, as this can tighten the tick’s hold. Even if parts of the tick stay in the skin, they will come out eventually on their own.
Wash your hands and your child’s scalp with soap and water. Use an alcohol swab on the site of the bite, too.
Save the tick in a jar or plastic bag to bring to our office for possible identification.
Don’t believe old wives’ tales
You may have heard that petroleum jelly or a hot match are the ways to remove a tick. These methods actually encourage the tick to dig deeper into your child’s skin and release more saliva, increasing the risk that it will pass on disease.
See a doctor
Call our office to determine if you should set up an office visit to examine the tick and your child. Bring the tick sample with you so Dr. Lubega can analyze it. We can tell you if it’s a type of tick that carries infections; not all ticks do.
Infections that ticks may carry include, but are not limited to:
- Lyme disease
- Colorado tick fever
- Rocky Mountain spotted fever
We may suggest you wait to see if your child develops symptoms, like a red bump ringed by an expanding red rash, red dots on the ankles and wrists, or flu-like symptoms, including fever and vomiting. If your child complains of muscle or joint aches, tiredness, or a stiff neck, also be concerned. These are signs of illnesses like Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
Even if your child doesn’t develop these symptoms, you should seek our care if the tick was on your child’s skin for more than 24 hours. A tick must be on your child’s skin for 36 hours or more to transmit the bacteria that results in Lyme disease. You should also come in for an immediate appointment if part of the tick remains in the skin. A tick bite that looks infected, meaning it’s warm, swollen, painful, or oozing pus, also needs care.
Encountering insects is part of the fun of playing outdoors. If your child comes home with a tick on their scalp, it’s likely just fine, but call us at First Pediatric Care Center just to be sure. We can offer care and reassurance to you and your child.