Summer Bites

Adult_deer_tickBackyard barbeques, picnics in the park, swimming, sunning, and swinging with friends until sunset; there’s so much to love about summer—minus the bugs.

Despite the use of expensive sprays, fancy candles and other popular pest deterrents, my 8-year-old is covered with bug bites.  Living in northern Wisconsin, which is blanketed with forests and other havens for flying blood suckers, doesn’t help; however, this summer’s battle against the bugs seems to be a bit fiercer than in years past.

Currently, my mom radar is set on mass insect detection.  I am on especially high alert for deer ticks, which can spread Lyme disease.  According to the Tick-Borne Disease Alliance, children ages 5 to 14 have the highest incidence of Lyme disease in the United States.  More concerning is the fact that many parents have the misconception that deer ticks can only be found in wooded areas.  The truth is your children are at risk of getting bit by a deer tick while walking in open fields, playing in backyards, climbing trees or eating at the park.

Public health officials warn parents:  “Deer ticks are cesspools of disease, and they put your children at risk of contracting Lyme disease and many other potentially debilitating diseases such as babesiosis, anaplasmosis, bartonella, tularemia and mycoplasma.”

Experts say the best way to protect your children from being attacked by a deer tick is to apply tick repellent, preferably one that is permethrin and DEET-free.  Herbal Armor is a good choice as it contains only natural ingredients, rather than chemicals that may cause negative side effects.

Other ways to shield your kids from a major summer tick attack include:

  • Wear light-colored clothing so you can spot ticks easier.
  • Upon returning from wooded areas, place clothes in the dryer and run on high heat for 30 minutes to kill any potential pests.
  • Don’t let kids play in tall grass.  Mow your lawn frequently and cut weeds so ticks don’t have a place to hide.
  • Tuck your child’s pants into his socks if he is planning to navigate wooded areas.
  • If your pet runs free in grassy areas, inspect him regularly with a fine-tooth tick comb.

Finally, if you find a tick on your child, grasp it firmly with tweezers as close to the skin as possible and pull it straight out. Don’t twist the tick and never try to remove it with your bare hands.  If you don’t have tweezers on hand, grab the tick with a piece of napkin, tissue or cloth.  Then, place the pest in a container of alcohol or soapy water, or flush it down the toilet.

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Michele Cheplic

About Michele Cheplic

Michele Cheplic was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, but now lives in Wisconsin. Michele graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Journalism. She spent the next ten years as a television anchor and reporter at various stations throughout the country (from the CBS affiliate in Honolulu to the NBC affiliate in Green Bay). She has won numerous honors including an Emmy Award and multiple Edward R. Murrow awards honoring outstanding achievements in broadcast journalism. In addition, she has received awards from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for her reports on air travel and the Wisconsin Education Association Council for her stories on education. Michele has since left television to concentrate on being a mom and freelance writer.