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Ticks: Dangers in the Leaf Pile

Tick on a fingerThe leaves are turning and beginning to fill your yard, much to the joy of your children. While playing in piles of leaves is great fun, there are some precautions you should take to keep your kids safe.

The biggest danger in a leaf pile is a tiny pest: a tick. Ticks are tiny and live in dark, damp environments, especially near wooded areas. This makes the fallen leaves in your yard an ideal spot. Despite their small size, ticks can pass along Lyme disease to anyone or anything they bite. Despite how scary that sounds, the steps to preventing tick bites are fairly simple:

  1. Dress kids (and yourself) in long sleeves and pants that are tight around the wrists and ankles. Wear long socks that stop above the ankle. If pants are not tight around the ankles, consider tucking them into your socks. This will minimize exposed skin and opportunities for ticks to bite.
  2. Invest in a tick repellant. You can find tick repellants at most grocery or sporting goods stores. The main ingredient in most tick repellants, DEET, can be harmful in large amounts to children. Choose one that has a lower concentration of DEET and always supervise children's use of insect repellants.
  3. Allow your child to play only in new leaf piles that you have raked that day. Leaves that have been on the ground or in one spot for a shorter amount of time are better. If the leaves haven’t sat for long, they are less likely to be damp and decomposing, both of which attract ticks.
  4. After all outdoor play, inspect your children for ticks. Ticks are small, brown and round; even if your child is not itching or complaining of discomfort, you should check them. Often, ticks are not detected until it is time to see a doctor, so don’t delay in checking for them.

If you find a tick:

  1. Remain calm.
  2. Use your fingernails or a pair of tweezers to remove the tick by gently tugging at the tick's body until it releases from the skin.
  3. Do not handle the tick with your bare hands or crush the tick's body as this can spread disease.
  4. Clean the bite area with antiseptic or soap and water.
  5. Wash all clothing immediately in hot water to kill any ticks that may remain on clothing.

Preventing and avoiding tick bites does not have to ruin your or your child’s fun. Adding these few steps or changing a few old habits can make a big difference in avoiding these pesky pests. If you have any questions about ticks, outdoor safety or insect repellant, contact your Mercy or MercyCare provider.

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