How to Keep the Kids Protected from Ticks This Summer
It’s summertime; the weather’s nice and the kids are doing everything outdoors: at camp, playing in the yard, going to the beach, and more. Parents do their best to protect children from imminent danger, but what can often be overlooked are the dangers of disease -carrying ticks, mosquitos, and other biting insects.
Where to Watch Out for Ticks
While mosquitos and biting flies seem impossible to avoid in the summer months, ticks are much more inconspicuous and require a watchful eye. During the peak months, an average of 5,000 people will contract Lyme disease or another tick-borne illness per week. And kids are just as susceptible as any adult, if not more, to contract tick-borne illnesses.
While tick season occurs during the warmest months of the year, it’s possible to get bitten by a tick year-round – especially in the coastal Northeast and mid-Atlantic states.
Ticks are commonly found in tall grass, leaf piles, wood piles, and beach grass. So, take extra precautions when taking children to brushy and wooded areas, like during camping, picnics, hiking, and fishing.
What’s the Best Tick Repellent for Kids?
When it comes to bug spray, there are typically three options: natural DEET alternatives, DEET, or picaridin. The most common natural bug spray is oil of lemon eucalyptus, which does not offer any tick protection. It only protects against mosquitos for up to 6 hours, and is not recommended for children under the age of three.
DEET is a neurotoxin (toxins that are destructive to nerve tissue) that is absorbed into the skin at a rate of 18% - much higher than alternatives like picaridin. Picaridin is absorbed at a lower rate of 6% and it is not a neurotoxin. Additionally, DEET protects against ticks for only 8-10 hours whereas Picaridin protects against ticks for 12 hours.
Is DEET safe for kids? While DEET can be applied to children as young as two months old, the fact that it’s a neurotoxin means it is not recommended to be regularly used on children or adults of any age.
Picaridin is safe for kids older than the age of one, and even safe to apply during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Picaridin 20% protects against ticks for up to 12 hours, giving it a longer period of effectiveness than any other tick repellents. Picaridin is a CDC-recommended active ingredient for tick repellents and it’s registered with the EPA, unlike natural tick repellents. It’s much safer, more effective against ticks, and just as effective - if not more effective - than DEET-based bug sprays to prevent bites from mosquitos and other biting insects.
Read our full review of the best tick repellents for the entire family.
Other Ways to Protect Kids from Ticks and Lyme Disease
Applying a body-worn tick repellent is the first step to keep children safe while spending time outdoors, but there are additional precautions parents can take to ensure their kids are fully protected from tick bites this summer.
Wearing light colored clothing outside will make it easier to detect ticks on their body. After coming inside, remove their clothing and put the clothing straight in the dryer at a high temperature for 10-15 minutes to kill any ticks. Make sure to include all pieces of clothing - ticks can hide anywhere.
Always perform a tick check upon getting home, too. Pay close attention to their hair, behind and in their ears, under their arms, around their waistline, and behind their knees. Also, check all pets for ticks regularly. Children can also receive a tick from a house pet that contracted one from outside.
If a tick is found on your child’s body, don’t panic. Follow our guide for safe tick removal and getting the tick tested for Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases.
While ticks are a risk all year long, parents need to take extra precautions to protect their families in the warm, summer months. Follow these tips and keep an effective, kid safe tick repellent on hand at all times.