Ticks And Lyme In Summertime

Dear Mamas,

My 9 year old niece is coming to my house in Connecticut for two weeks this summer. I don’t have kids of my own and I am really looking forward to it. Here’s the problem though — she is from the West Coast and her mother is paranoid about Lyme Disease. They don’t have much of it out there and she has been calling me to ask how I’m going to protect her. To tell the truth, I don’t know what to say.

What’s the best way to keep an active little kid safe from Lyme? It is pretty rampant out my way.



Hey Ginny,

Every place has something to worry about. Floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, you name it, it’s out there and someone is always at risk. That’s life! But as you say, in Connecticut, and the Northeast in general, the risk of contracting Lyme is high. So you (and your sister-in-law) are right to be pro-active towards prevention.

There are definitely things you can do to keep your niece from getting Lyme. But before we go there, we’ll clue you in to the basics about Lyme and then guide you through a series of steps to take in order to keep her (and you) disease free.


  • Lyme Disease is caused by a bacterium (Borrelia burgdorferi) that is carried in the gut of certain ticks.
  • They are found in high grasses as well as bushy and wooded areas and hop onto you when you brush past these plants.
  • They also feed off animals, including dogs, that can bring them into the house and onto you.
  • They walk around on the body for several hours before they attach. This is good news because it gives you some lead time in getting rid of them before they become a problem.
  • Once they attach to you (often in a warm or moist part of the body like armpits, the groin area, behind the knees, the scalp, behind the ears) they begin to feed and can transmit the disease within 36-48 hours.
  • They can be pretty big — about the size of a pencil eraser — or so small you can barely see them. Any new brown or black spot is suspect.


  • When walking in wooded or grassy areas make sure you spray all exposed body parts (except the face and hands) with an insect repellant product. One option is to use a product that contains up to 30% DEET. This will offer 4-5 hours of protection. But keep in mind that DEET can be toxic and follow directions carefully. Make sure to wash it off at day’s end. There are also other repellants available that are DEET free (Buzz AwayExtreme, Tick Guard etc.). Check with a local pediatrician to get her thoughts on which to use with your niece.
  • Spray DEET on shoes and clothes as well but keep away from the face.
  • Wear light colored clothing which will make it easier to spot them and a hat.
  • Wear long sleeved shirts and long pants and tuck the cuffs into your shoes or boots.
  • Check body carefully after coming inside for the presence of ticks.
  • Take a really good shower using a wash cloth to scrub with each evening after coming inside.
  • Check your dog frequently and thoroughly, as he can also be carrying them.
  • Check scalp by using a hair dryer set on cool to move hair around more easily.


  • The presence of an attached tick on the body (although it can become engorged and fall off before you realize it’s there).
  • A “bulls-eye” rash or red rash on the body – but not always – up to 40% of those with the disease never got a rash.
  • Early symptoms are often flu-like — fever, chills, fatigue, achy joints or muscles, headache, swollen lymph nodes, stiff neck.


  • If you suspect Lyme, call the doctor right away. Diagnosis is often made through a combination of clinical observation and a blood test.


  • When caught early, Lyme Disease can usually be successfully treated with antibiotics. It is very important to treat Lyme A.S.A.P. because without treatment, serious complications involving the joints, heart, and nervous system can occur


1. Connecticut

2. Rhode Island

3. Delaware

4. Pennsylvania

5. New Jersey

6. New York

7. Massachusetts

8. Wisconsin

9. New Hampshire

10. Maryland

One thing to keep in mind is that most people who get a tick bite do not get Lyme. But it is definitely one of those things to watch out for. So now that you have the facts, I hope you can present your plan to your sister-in-law and that she will RELAX! Have a great and fun time with your niece!

The Mamas

P.S. For more information on Lyme Disease go to: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002296/

P.P.S. Check out this slide show on Lyme from Web M.D. for even more info.


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Ellen W. Schrier, LCSW, is a family therapist and the mother of three adolescent/young adult kids.

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