For me, this picture highlights the inner peace and comfort I find when spending time in the forest or resting against the mighty solidity of a tree trunk. For some, however, an image like this now inspires concerning thoughts about ticks.
The spread of tick-bourne Lyme disease has caused many families to fear outdoor play. Lyme disease is spreading across the country and incidence of the disease increases each year. It is certainly something we need to be well informed about. With certain precautions, however, we can greatly reduce our chances of contracting Lyme disease and continue to enjoy the numerous benefits of outdoor play !
When working with kids, I facilitate a simple tick check when we come out of the forest. We partner up, with one partner making a star with their bodies and the other looking for black specks. Then every student examines around their ankles. We then discuss the importance of checking our bodies’ dark and warm places when getting into our pajamas later that night. When ticks are attached to your body for less than 36 hours, the chance of getting Lyme disease is small!
The Vermont Department of Health has issued a clear and concise handbook that covers all of the basic information families should know about ticks and preventing Lyme disease. I’ve taken following information from this booklet:
Preventing Lyme Disease Outdoors:
- Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts to minimize skin exposure to ticks.
- Tuck your pants into your socks to form a barrier to keep ticks out.
- Wear light-colored clothing so you can easily see ticks on your clothing.
- Check for ticks, looking particularly for what may look like nothing more than a new freckle or speck of dirt, and remove ticks promptly. Black-legged (or Deer) Ticks are the species that spreads Lyme disease (click the diagram to the left to learn to identify the Deer/Black-Legged Tick).
Preventing Lyme Disease When You Come Indoors:
- Check your body for ticks, and check your children. Pay special attention to the head, armpits, and groin area. Remove ticks promptly (click image to right for detailed removal instructions).
- Showering within a few hours of being outside may also be helpful.
Tick checks have been a regular part of outdoor activities for years for families in Connecticut and Cape Cod. It seems like the rest of us living in the northeast and beyond will now need to make this part of our routine. Older adults may remember how it was hard to remember to wear seat belts when legislation made them a requirement. Now it’s second nature! I strongly believe in the importance of outdoor play in childhood, so get informed and don’t let the fear of ticks keep you indoors.