Tick-borne Illness and How to Keep Your Family Safe
Outside fun is something to be encouraged and enjoyed. Yet our outdoor adventures put us at risk for animal and insect bites, including tick bites. Ticks are common in all areas of North Carolina. Children are five times more likely to die of a tick-borne illness than adults and the reason is often due to delaying treatment.
The types of tick-borne illness we see in North Carolina include Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF), and other Spotted Fever Rickettsial Diseases (SFR), Ehrlichiosis and STARI (Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness). Tick-borne illnesses are caused by a bacterium transmitted from a tick. For patient safety, treatment for tick-borne disease must be prescribed promptly and often before lab test results are in. This can often cause alarm and delay for some parents.
The Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever Debate
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is caused by a bacterium transmitted from a tick. The symptoms of RMSF are similar to that of the flu and include fever, headache and muscle aches, vomiting, diarrhea and rash. The disease acts very fast and is deadly in more than twenty percent of children infected with the disease.
The best treatment for RMSF is the prescription doxycycline, which is a powerful antibiotic. The FDA warning label for doxycycline and other tetracycline-class drugs, states it can cause permanent tooth discoloration and weakened enamel in children less than 8 years of age. They therefore recommend against using it in young children.
When a pediatrician prescribes doxycycline, the parent is faced with a decision: to accept the prescribed treatment or not. This is a tough spot for both the pediatrician and the parent as the life of the child is at risk and delaying treatment increases the risk of hospitalization and death. According to the CDC, the warning label for doxycycline in young children under eight years of age is inapplicable. The CDC completed a study that found that short-term use of doxycycline in children under eight did not attribute to tooth staining or weakened enamel.
Tick Safety Tips
The good news is that even if a tick is discovered, it can take several hours for it to transmit the pathogen that can cause illness. It is important to check yourself and your children when returning indoors to reduce the risk of becoming ill. If a tick is discovered, remove it by grasping it as close to the skin as possible with tweezers and pulling straight out. Despite popular belief, petroleum jelly, nail polish, and hot matches do not make a tick let go and should avoid being used. The bite area should be cleansed with soap, water and a disinfectant, such as hydrogen peroxide or witch hazel. To help identify the cause of illness, should it occur, the tick can be saved in a jar or plastic bag.
Your child’s safety is of utmost importance to us. If you have any questions about tick-borne illnesses or suspect your child has a tick-borne illness, contact Rainbow Pediatrics at 910-486-5437 to schedule an appointment with one of our pediatric providers.