Knowing the facts about ticks can save a life

By Peggy H. Pollock, RN - Sampson County Health Department

It’s summertime! Most children are out of school and able to play outside more. This is great! Children need outside activity. But parents need to be cautious when sending them outside. There are plenty of things we need to look out for like snakes, over exposure to sun, getting overheated, and ticks.

Most things can be avoided by using common sense; but those pesky ticks are something else. They are in trees, in the grass, on pets and other animals. When your child goes out to play, be sure to check for ticks daily when they come in from outside. And this means check them from head to toes. Inspect all the little crevices where these little creatures might hide. Ticks come in all sizes but the ones that are hardest to detect are the seed ticks. They are about the size of a pen point. They may even appear to be a freckle or a mole, so check closely. Wear insect repellent. If you have pets, treat them for ticks and check them daily.

Grownups need to be cautious as well. Especially if they work outside in the woods, or in and around wooded areas.

Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) is a tickborne disease caused by the bacterium Rickettsia rickettsia. This organism is a cause of potentially fatal human illness in North and South America, and is transmitted to humans by the bite of infected tick species. In the United Stated, these include the American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis), Rocky Mountain wood tick (Dermacentor andersoni), and brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus). Typical symptoms include: fever, headache, abdominal pain, vomiting, and muscle pain. A rash may also develop, but it is often absent in the first few days, and in some patients, never develops. Rocky Mountain spotted fever can be a severe or even fatal illness if not treated in the first few days of symptoms.

Doxycycline is the first line treatment for adults and children of all ages, and is most effective if started before the fifth day of symptoms. Adult dosage for treatment with Doxycycline is 100 mg twice a day for 7 to 14 days. For children, the dosage is Doxycycline 2.2mg/kg twice a day for 7 to 14 days.

The initial diagnosis is made based on clinical signs and symptoms, and medical history, and can later be confirmed by using specialized laboratory tests. RMSF and other tickborne diseases can be prevented, you just have to be vigilant.

Things to remember

RMSF symptoms include a fever with:

• Headache

• Upset stomach

• Rash (may occur later in illness)

See your healthcare provider immediately if you develop a fever:

• After being bitten by a tick

• After spending time in areas with ticks

• Remember, you may not know you have been bitten by a tick.

Doxycycline saves lives:

• It is the best treatment for suspected RMSF in children and adults.

• Treatment is needed early when RMSF is suspected.

• It does NOT cause tooth staining in children when used to treat RMSF.

For more information on RMSF or other tick borne diseases you can check out CDC’s Ticks website, or call your local health department : Sampson County Health Department 910-592-1131, extension 4248 if we can answer any questions for you.

By Peggy H. Pollock, RN

Sampson County Health Department