I hope you are enjoying the great outdoors with your family this fall! To help you have lots of fun and safe experiences, here are some tips on keeping your kids safe and tick-free this autumn by conducting a thorough tick check. – Professor Bugsbee
“Questing” For a Meal
Ticks typically climb onto vegetation at or above ankle-level, crawling out to the very tip of a leaf or grass blade and holding their front legs outstretched. This posture and behavior is called “questing,” as they are waiting for a passing mammal to glom onto.
Once on board, they look for a place where they will not be noticed or disturbed, let alone easily dislodged. They usually crawl upwards, giving you a fair amount of time (hours) do a tick check and remove them before they begin feeding.
The Tick Check – Where to Look
Wash Behind Your Ears…
Showering immediately after being outdoors in tick habitat greatly reduces the risk of a tick embedding itself before it is discovered. Still, ticks have an uncanny ability to anchor themselves in places that are difficult, if not impossible, for you to see. One favorite spot is behind the ear, so be sure to check there. One mystery of a child with unexplained paralysis was solved when a physician found a tick behind the child’s ear. Removal of the tick resulted in the complete recovery of the patient from “tick paralysis,” one of many illnesses that can be caused by ticks.
Behind Your Knees, Too
Another place ticks like to go is behind your knee, where they can likewise escape notice. Even if you see one, you might mistake it for a bit of soil or grass seed or some other inanimate and innocuous object. Make sure to examine your child thoroughly during a tick check, investigating whether the “dirt” is what it seems.
Other Hiding Spots
Armpits, groin, and scalp are also favored by ticks. Since normal hosts for ticks are rodents and deer, it makes sense that ticks would head for the hairy parts of a human. Do a thorough tick check on your child’s head after you’ve cleaned them up to make sure no ticks escaped the shower by nestling in their hair.
Teeny Tiny Ticks
Remember that while adult ticks are not very large, young ticks are smaller still. You may need a magnifying glass to tell whether a given speck is dirt, a scab, or a tick. Take no chances, be thorough. Your child will be grateful to you later.
As always, it pays to take precautions before you go afield, as well as doing a thorough tick check upon you’re return. When headed into tick country, make sure your child wears pants, not shorts, and tuck the cuffs of the pants into their socks for added security. Choose light-colored clothing, as this lets you see a climbing tick easier than dark clothing. Outdoor garments and gear treated with permethrin may discourage ticks even more. Use insect repellents like Ben’s® with 10-30% DEET as the active ingredient.
More Tick Info
Want to stay informed on all things ticks? Here’s some further reading to help you keep you and your family safely enjoying the outdoors.
- Find out what tick-borne diseases are common in your area: Insect & Tick Diseases by Region: Risks Where You Live
- Test your knowledge on all things ticks: Tick Quiz: True or False?
- Stay up-to-date on new diseases: Tick Diseases on the Rise
- Learn about the different types of ticks: Types of Ticks to Look Out for This Summer