A heads up to New Jersey parents whose kids play near tall grass
The warmer weather means more kids playing outdoors. And whether it's raining or sunny out, most of our younger residents aren't deterred from getting out there and having fun. But during the nicer times of the year also comes more to watch out for. As the old saying goes, knowledge is power.
Recently, one of my sons dealt with something that I wanted to share with you. I want to bring this up simply because some parents or kids might not know what to do if this happens to them.
And it's nothing the parent or kid does wrong. In fact, it's just as important for teens and adults to be aware of this as well. Whenever you're outside, keep a mindful eye on how tall the grass and weeds are. You might end up with a tick on you and not even know it.
This is exactly what happened with my son. Unfortunately, neither he nor his mother was aware of it until days later. And to be honest? It's completely understandable they didn't know. Sometimes ticks can blend in and appear to be a scab once found. That's what happened in this case.
By the time I learned of it the tick had already found a place to bite and was getting larger. My wife got concerned when she started noticing the dark scab growing in size.
Since I grew up spending a lot of time in the woods, I'm pretty familiar with recognizing what a tick looks like when they latch on. As soon as I saw it, I immediately knew it was no scab. What made it worse was the location the tick latched on.
It was around his private region, making it all that much more awkward to take a closer look and prepare to remove. My wife told me when she first noticed it that it was around the size of a poppy seed. That could mean it was possibly a Deer Tick, which is known to carry Lyme disease. The area where the tick had bitten was swelled up a little, almost like a large pimple.
Luckily for us, once the tick was removed, the irritated spot where it had bitten returned to normal fairly quickly. So far there are no signs of any illness, but we all know to keep an eye out over the next couple of weeks just in case my son starts to feel off.
Ticks are typically found in tall grasses and weeds
Doesn't matter which variety of tick it is, they all can be found in tall grasses and weeds. This can be from within the woods or even a neighborhood.
I once brushed against a patch of tall grass in the woods and ended up with about a dozen ticks on my leg almost instantly. So it can happen fairly quickly if you're not careful. Ticks will take any opportunity to hop onto a host if it gets close enough. The higher up they are from the ground, the easier it is for them to latch on.
Pull the ticks straight off
If you notice a tick on you and it already latched on, don't panic. Grab a pair of good tweezers and prepare to pull it off. When pulling, try not to twist the tick in any way. The best way to remove them is to pull them straight back.
If any part of the tick breaks off and remains on you, be sure to get that off as well. You'll want the entire tick to be removed completely. After it's fully removed, be sure to clean the area thoroughly.
Save the tick if you're concerned
If you're concerned about any diseases that you might've been exposed to due to the bite, you'll want to save the tick. Find a sealable plastic bag and bring it to an expert to get tested.
And don't worry so much if the tick is still alive or not. As long as you save it, it can be checked for any potential diseases it might've been carrying.
The odds of illness are low
Although ticks can carry diseases, the odds are low that you might contract a disease. Even if the tick does test positive for something, it doesn't necessarily mean you'll get sick. Our immune systems are hard at work protecting us. So if there was any possible risk, your body might be able to fight it off.
However, immunocompromised people should take extra care if they start experiencing anything that might resemble the flu. Also, you'll want to get the tick off as soon as possible. Chances of illness can increase the longer the tick remains attached and in place.
Be smart when playing outdoors
There's no reason to limit your kids from having fun where grasses might be overgrown. Just make sure they know how to play smart.
One way to reduce ticks from getting onto your skin is to wear your socks pulled all the way up the legs. That way if a tick does happen to get on, it'll be easier to spot and it reduces the risk of it getting onto your skin and finding a place to latch on. And if you have long pants, pull the socks up and around the outside instead of underneath the pant legs. That'll make it even harder for a tick to get onto your skin.
Although it's recommended to wear longer clothing while outdoors, that's not always the wisest choice with how hot and humid New Jersey can get. For any parts of the body that are exposed, wearing tick repellent is also a good idea.
It's also a good idea to do a tick check before coming back inside. It's as simple as scanning your body up and down and having someone check you from the back. A good shower also doesn't hurt as that'll also help you look for any potential ticks that might've gotten onto you throughout the day.
And of course, let's not forget about our four-legged friends. Even if they are protected against ticks, check them anyway just in case one managed to hop on just before coming back indoors.
To learn more about the many varieties of ticks that live here in the Garden State, check out the department of the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife webpage by clicking here.