Q: What's the best way to remove a tick from my child?

A: If you spot a tick on your child (you should look him over from head to toe after he's played in woodsy areas) follow these simple steps to remove it safely:

• Use a pair of fine-point tweezers to grasp the tick by the head or mouth (not the body) as close to the skin as possible.

• Pull back slowly, being careful not to squeeze too hard or twist the tick, which may cause you to leave some of it behind in the skin.

• Clean the wound with a disinfectant, like rubbing alcohol.

• Watch the area closely for several weeks and be on the lookout for symptoms of Lyme disease, which include a red bull's-eye rash, fatigue, fever, chills, achy joints, headache, and swollen lymph glands.

Although experts say you don't need to get the tick analyzed, it may make you feel better knowing whether or not the tick that bit your child was a Lyme carrier. To have the tick tested, save it in a dry glass vial or a zip-top plastic bag and check with your pediatrician for a lab in your area.

Of course, your best defense against tick bites is prevention. To protect your child, use an insect repellant with DEET on exposed skin and clothes (products with no more than 30 percent DEET are safe for babies as young as 2 months). When playing outdoors, teach kids to avoid underbrush, fallen tress, and tall grass, where ticks tend to hide. When going into wooded areas, wear light-colored clothing so you can spot ticks more easily, tuck shirts into pants and pants into socks. And if you're hiking, consider using rubber bands or tape to seal off the area where your child's socks and pants meet, which prevents ticks from getting under clothing. --Alice Lesch Kelly

Copyright 2009

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