Pediatricians with the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt said they are experiencing an increase in patients being treated for insect-borne illnessess and infections due to the hot and humid temperatures.
Doctors said tick bites pose a significant threat to children this year. As of July 14, the Tennessee Department of Health reported 304 cases of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever throughout the state, compared with 255 cases during all of 2011. This tick-borne illness can become very serious if left untreated.
“We have a very low threshold for treating tick-borne illnesses in the summertime,” said Buddy Creech, M.D., assistant professor of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt. “Children can get sick pretty quickly from diseases like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Ehrlichiosis, and they can even get meningitis from these bacteria.”
Creech said it is important to perform daily tick checks on children. Also check for the symptoms of tick-borne illnesses, including fever, headache, rash, and sensitivity to light.
Creech added that children can sometimes contract these illnesses without actually being found, as ticks will often drop off after they have fed. If a tick is engorged, remove all the insect's parts immediately from the skin to avoid inflammation and infection.
The Tennessee Department of Health recommends these tick safety tips:
- Wear light-colored clothing to help spot ticks.
- Tuck pants into socks.
- Apply repellents to clothing and skin (follow label instructions).
- Examine clothing and pets for ticks.
- Remove leaf litter and brush to reduce tick habitats.
In addition to ticks, mosquito-borne illnesses are very serious and can lead to meningitis or inflammation of the brain.
Creech said that while illnesses like West Nile Virus are rare in Middle Tennessee, those traveling to Florida or other tropical areas for the summer should be careful. Some illnesses typically born overseas, including Dengue Fever, are now being reported in the United States.
“When we do experience mosquito bites, we should care for them immediately with soap and water and use common sense,” said Creech. “Again, being aware of the symptoms and being proactive in preventing bites will help bring down instances of these diseases.”
Mosquito repellents with DEET and powerful oscillating fans are effective in controlling mosquitoes.
The Tennessee Department of Health recommends these mosquito safety tips:
- Eliminate standing water near your home.
- Keep windows and doors closed or cover them with screens.
- Use insect repllent with either DEET, Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535.
- Avoid going outdoors at dusk or dawn.
- For more extensive outdoor activity or overseas travel where other mosquito-borne illnesses are present, consider treating clothing with a product containing the insecticide permethrin. Permethrin is not to be used on skin.
For more information on treating bug bites and stings or properly removing ticks, click here.