Tick Season

What parents should know about ticks and children

mott blog - ticks and kidsThe number of ticks in the Great Lakes region has been on the rise for the past few years, but many experts are reporting that this year is going to be even worse than the last.

Ticks can carry and transmit diseases such as Lyme disease. It’s important to be on alert whenever you, your children and even your pets spend time outside — especially in or near wooded areas.


When possible, wear long sleeved shirts and long pants. Tuck pants into socks to prevent ticks from climbing up the pant leg. Use an insect repellent that includes 30 percent DEET. These repellents last for six hours, so reapply if you are outside longer. Another protective measure is to treat clothing with permethrin. One permethrin application works on clothing for up to six weeks or six washings. It can also be used on sleeping bags and tents. Carefully follow the product’s directions when using permethrin.


There are two main types of ticks — wood and deer. Wood ticks are larger, about the size of a watermelon seed. Deer ticks are smaller, between the size of a poppy seed and an apple seed. Deer ticks can transmit Lyme disease, but only in about less than 2 percent of cases.


As soon as you come inside, do a tick check on everyone in the family. A tick has to stay attached for 24 hours before there is any chance of transmitting the organism that causes Lyme disease, so checking right away is important. A tick bite is painless. Ticks burrow into the skin and suck on a person’s blood. Be sure to check in and around ears, inside belly buttons, behind knees, between legs, in armpits and in hair.


If you find a tick, do not panic. Most tick bites are harmless, but you should remove it right away. If you find a wood tick, first try to remove it by soaking a cotton ball in liquid soap. Cover the tick with the cotton ball for 30 seconds. In most cases, the tick will be stuck to the cotton ball when you remove it. If that does not work, remove the tick with tweezers. Grasp it close to the skin and pull straight up without twisting or crushing it.

If you find a deer tick, the smaller kind, scrape it off with a fingernail or edge of a credit card. After removing a tick, wash the bite area and your hands with soap and water, then apply an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment to the bite site.

If you’re worried about potential tick-transmitted disease, you can place the tick in a plastic bag after you remove it. If any symptoms develop, you can bring the tick to your doctor’s appointment so that it can be properly identified.


After a tick has bitten someone, watch him or her for signs of illness over the following days and weeks. Look for fever, aches and pains, or a rash. If Lyme disease has been transmitted, the rash will typically appear within three to 30 days. A bullseye or circular rash around the bite site is an indication of Lyme disease. Be sure to see your doctor if a rash or any other symptoms develop.

Other tickborne illnesses have their own rash patterns. Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which can be transmitted by wood ticks, has rash that looks just like it sounds — small spots of rash in the affected area.


Don’t let the fear of ticks keep you from enjoying the outdoors. The risk of disease transmission is small. Take precautions before you go out, check for ticks when you come back in, watch for any symptoms after a bite and contact your healthcare provider if concerned. Most importantly, get outside and enjoy the summer!

Take the next step:


heather burrows mdHeather Burrows, MD, PhD, is a pediatrician at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.  Dr. Burrows sees patients at our East Ann Arbor clinic. Learn more about University of Michigan pediatricians.




best children's hospitalUniversity of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is consistently ranked one of the best hospitals in the country. It was nationally ranked in all ten pediatric specialties in U.S. News Media Group’s “America’s Best Children’s Hospitals,” and among the 10 best children’s hospitals in the nation by Parents Magazine. In December 2011, the hospital opened our new 12-story, state-of-the-art facility offering cutting-edge specialty services for newborns, children and women.

21 thoughts on “Tick Season

  1. avatar
    Jeanette A on said:

    Curious about the cotton ball trick as the CDC says to always leave it alone except for removal with tweezers. Can the above recommendations cause it to burrow deeper?

  2. avatar
    Heather Burrows on said:

    In the past, some folks would try a lite match to the tick- that is (I hope obviously) NOT a good idea. That is why the CDC says to just use the tweezers. The tick does not really burrow into your skin- it bites with its mouth parts- so it isn’t going to burrow into you to get away from something it doesn’t like. The one problem with tweezers is that sometimes a piece of the tick is left behind. This doesn’t cause harm, but can be a bit annoying to the skin, so if you can get the tick to let go that is great. Hence the cotton ball trick- if it works great! if not, then go to the tweezers.

    • avatar
      Angela on said:

      I read that the reason the CDC recommends going straight to tweezer removal is because if the tick is disturbed or suffocated (which the soap could do), the tick regurgitates into the bite before becoming detached. Thus, increasing the likelihood of a number of infections. Weather or not that’s true I don’t really know, but the point is to remove the tick quickly without disturbing it too much. The CDC also recommends avoiding folklore remedies, such as the “soap on a cotton ball” trick. http://www.cdc.gov/ticks/removing_a_tick.html

  3. avatar
    Peter on said:

    I came across this product to remove ticks a few years ago. I haven’t had the need to use it (yet!) but others have told me that it works well to remove the tick without the use of a match, peanut butter, vaseline, etc.


  4. avatar
    Alexis Kelley on said:

    Hello, I had a question regarding the “tick blog” I have a son who is a lil over 8 months old and we have (and will be) spending quite a bit of time outside gardening and such… but I can’t seem to find any sort of repellant that is safe for children under the age of 2…. Do you have any ideas of a safer alternative or a home mix? I have a bug repellant clip and have planted natural repelling plants but I fear that may not be enough… We live right next to a wooded river and I’m worried about both ticks and Mosquitos!!!! If you know of anything I’d love it if you wouldn’t mind sharing!

    PS: Motts is a phenomenal children’s hospital! Your pediatric surgery team saved my sons life! Tell Dr. Arnold Sean Patrick said HI!!! Lol

    Thanks a bunch!
    -Alexis Kelley

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  6. both granddaughters and I had a tick on us in the past week. I never had them here before.we did the soap on cotton and it work came off in under a min.

  7. avatar
    Curious Parent on said:

    Is a bullseye looking reaction to a mosquito (or other) type of bite (without evidence of a tic) a cause for a doctor visit?

    • avatar
      Allen on said:

      We had our UofM Doctor look at a Mosquito bite on our daughters foot a few days ago. We just so happened to have the appointment already for a checkup and it was there so we asked about it. It showed the same “bullseye” type bite mark. It looked to be on the brink of infection so the Dr. wrote a script for some topical cream. We had been cleaning it the two days prior with Hydrogen Peroxide and putting Bacitracin on it. The Dr. had said we did the right thing and to continue with just the topical cream. If it looks bad enough, I would say take them in. Best judgement I guess.

    • A large hive-like reaction (from something other than a tick) could give you something that looks more like a bullseye lesion. However it sounds like a reaction that is different enough from what would be expected that it would be best for someone to take a look at it.

  8. avatar
    Allen on said:

    I would just like to add this. Don’t read the CDC site. If you believe they are there for your well being, don’t. Trust institutions like UofM or other well known medical systems. Our CDC is a complete joke.

  9. avatar
    Jean on said:

    At the end of your article you include the capability of sharing this via Facebook, Twitter, etc. But you do not include “an easy button” to email it. My “children” are now young adults. I’d rather email them copies of this article to read vs the other formats. Could you include this option?
    Thank you.

    • avatar
      Allen on said:

      If you scroll to the very bottom, look for the Facebook “Like” button. To the right of that you will see an orange “Share” image. Click that and it will give you options to email the post out.

  10. avatar
    Lisa on said:

    Actually, I’ve known of at least 1 case of Lyme’s where the tick was attached for not even 20 minutes! It happened to my own son.

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  12. My daughter got Lyme disease. When she got bit by the tic itdoes NOT stay on Within minutes it looked like a giant red bullseye 8centimeters in size with a timy white dot directly in middle. As we were camping in northern Micigan Northof Traverse city and had 2 registered nurses with us that insisted that was not a tic bite I did not follow my first instinct to drive the hour to hospital. That afternoon she was down in bed with a fever that night i had to carry her to bathroom she was 7 years old. She was sick like that for 2 days I believe(shes now 22) . Within 3 weeks she was complaining her knees hurt, the next week she added her rotator cuff this attacked all her joints By the time 1 month later when her pefiatrician tested her it came back borderline for lymes So she was treated with Arithmomiacin(?) whichever the strongest antibiotic was. She was violently ill. So it was changed to amoxicillin 1100 mg a day! She was exhausted, could not concentrate, her heart raced, At school they made a bed for her to go rest They kept special snacks in her teachers room to combat the nausea and had a teachers aide come and work with her to keep up with her peers. I cannot praise the Davison,Mich school system enough for their compassion and concern over my daughters schooling and health. It took a year of antibiotics and she still had concentration issues fir YEARS after. So PLEASE use spray when you send them outside Deer ticks are in your backyards…..

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