Blacklegged ticks, also known as deer ticks (Ixodes scapularis), which can carry Lyme Disease as well as the less common Human Granulocytotropic Anaplasmosis (HGA) and Babesiosis, are prevalent in Rhode Island. Disease carrying ticks have been found in 43 states and are common in many parts of the Northeast. Caution is appropriate for anyone spending time in the outdoors. Here are answers to some commonly asked questions about ticks.
What is the likelihood of my child getting a tick-borne disease at Alton Jones? It is unlikely that your child will get a tick-borne disease from attending a program at the URI W. Alton Jones Campus. We work diligently to minimize risks and provide maximum protection for each child who attends our programs. We feel it is important to keep parents informed so that if a child displays symptoms, a prompt diagnosis can be made and proper treatment can be given.
What measures are taken to prevent tick bites? While the risk of getting a tick-borne illness at W. Alton Jones is low, we take a proactive approach. We teach children to be aware of ticks and methods of tick-bite prevention. We talk to them about ticks at their first orientation meeting. We teach them how to check themselves for ticks and frequently remind them to do so. We work to keep our trails trimmed back and we make every effort to avoid high tick areas.
What if a tick bites my child? In the event that an embedded tick is found on a child, a trained staff member will promptly remove the tick. It is possible for an infected tick to be embedded for up to 48 hours before transmitting a disease. Prompt tick removal will reduce the likelihood of disease transmission. We call the parents of any child who is bitten by a tick so that they can help monitor the child for symptoms once they are home.
What are the symptoms of tick-borne diseases? We encourage all parents and children to become familiar with the symptoms since a tick bite can go undetected. If any symptoms occur, contact your doctor and tell them that your child may have been exposed to ticks. Many symptoms are flu-like while tick-borne diseases are most likely to occur outside of the normal flu season.
· Lyme Disease: Early symptoms generally appear within a week and include an expanding (often but not always bulls-eye shaped) skin rash that can be, but is not always, near the bite site. The rash occurs in 60% to 80% of all cases, appears 3 days to 1 month after the bite, and confirms a diagnosis of Lyme Disease. Also watch for chills, fever, headache, stiff neck, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, dizziness and aching joints and muscles. Another possible symptom is swelling and pain in the joints, especially the knees. These symptoms may not seem serious enough to warrant initial concern. Lyme Disease is the most common tick-borne disease and is treatable with antibiotics.
· Human Granulocytotropic Anaplasmosis (HGA): Symptoms include fever, headache, malaise, chills, sweating, muscle aches, nausea and vomiting. Symptoms may be severe and it is sometimes initially misdiagnosed as meningitis. This disease is rare but has been increasing in recent years. It is treatable with tetracycline derivative drugs (used with caution since some tetracycline drugs will permanently stain children’s teeth).
· Babeseosis: Symptoms are generally mild or go unnoticed and may require no treatment but can be severe in rare cases. Symptoms occur within 1 to 4 weeks and include a gradual onset of malaise, loss of appetite, and fatigue followed within a week or so by fever, drenching sweats, shaking chills, nausea, vomiting, headache, muscle pain, weakness, and depression. This disease is extremely rare particularly in children, however people with impaired immune systems or those who have had their spleen removed are at risk of severe and possibly fatal reactions.
What can parents do to help prevent tick bites? Insect repellents can be sprayed on clothing or skin to help prevent tick bites. Be sure that the label says it is affective against ticks and that it contains 30% or less of the chemical DEET since that is the maximum concentration currently recommended for children. Permethrin is highly effective against ticks but can only be applied to clothing. (Find pre-treated clothing at www.insectshield.com). Light colored clothing helps in locating ticks. Keeping ticks off children and removing them before they bite or transmit a disease are key to prevention.
Assist us in tick bite prevention by helping your son or daughter thoroughly check themselves for ticks as soon as they return home. Remove any embedded ticks with tweezers. Launder dirty clothing promptly and dry at high temperatures. Know and watch for symptoms of tick-borne diseases.
Please call 401-874-8148 if you have further questions or if your child contracts a tick-borne disease and you believe it was from attending a program at Alton Jones (we try to keep track of cases). We welcome your comments.