Spring is here and the sun is shining, which means Montanans are itching to break out of the winter haze and get outside to explore.  Here are some tips to keep you and your family from “itching” for another reason…ticks!  Ticks are ubiquitous in Montana during the Spring and early Summer, and they attach themselves to our clothing or skin as we brush up against vegetation where they live.  They then find a spot to embed their mouths in the skin.  This thought alone makes most people cringe, but they can also transfer diseases that can be dangerous to people and their pets. 

The first step to preventing this is to see and remove the ticks before they attach.  When exploring in environments where ticks live (anywhere with high grass, brush, or trees), wear light-colored clothing and tuck your pants into your socks to make them visible on your clothes and to keep them from getting under your pants.  You can also use insect repellant on your clothing and footwear.  Permethrin based insect repellant on the clothing is best, but you may also use DEET based insect repellant on the skin.  You can read about using insect repellants on children here: Insect Repellents > 

After hikes, playing in the woods, or gardening, perform a thorough “tick check” of the body, including the hair and scalp.  If a tick embeds in the skin, attempt to remove it as soon as possible.  The best way to remove the tick is to grasp the tick with tweezers as close to the skin as possible (the tick’s head) and pull with steady pressure until it releases, without crushing or twisting.  Check to make sure that the mouthparts of the tick have been removed as well.  Clean the area and then apply over-the-counter antibiotic ointment.  Other tips can be found here:  How to Remove a Tick >

Call or see your doctor if you can’t remove the tick or the tick head, if you develop a rash or fever within two weeks of tick exposure, or if the bite area looks infected.  If there is any question concerning symptoms, talk to your doctor.  Have fun out there and be safe!

Dr. Charlie Hastings, Pediatrician
Communitiy Physician Group, Missoula Valley Pediatrics