Expert advice: Keeping your family and pets safe during tick season in the Tri-Cities

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Spring weather has more people headed outdoors, but it also brings the risks of ticks. Pediatricians and veterinarians in the Tri-Cities recommend getting ahead of the problem with prevention.

Pediatricians and veterinarians say the risk of getting bit by a tick are higher in wooded or grassy areas, but even if you do not spend time in those areas, there is still a risk. Although it may be hard to keep children and pets out of the tall grass, there are several preventative measures to keep them safe.

Dr. Christopher Gill with First Choice Pediatrics said “Deet” is a safe deterrent for ticks. Dr. Gill advised it should only be applied to exposed skin, never under clothing, and not to children’s hands because there is a risk of them touching their face or eyes.

Dr. Andrew Pisacano with Robinson Animal Hospital says to give your pet regular flea and tick prevention, but be aware of the products you buy.

“Go to the grocery store and get something, it might could be dangerous for your pet. The Dollar Store, there’s some things that have caused some skin reactions and abnormal behaviors,” said Dr. Pisacano.

He added you can talk to your vet about the best prevention method for your pet.

As for if your child or pet does get a tick, Dr. Gill said to check your children’s skin when they get in from playing outside, especially areas you may not normally think to look.

“You need to look at their back, their hairline, behind the knees,” Dr. Gill said.

Timing is key to removing ticks as well. Dr. Gill said the risk of getting a disease is low if the tick has been on the skin for less than 36 hours.

When checking your pet for fleas or ticks, Dr. Pisacano said they can be hard to find. He suggested using a metal flea comb to check near the pet’s bottom and around their collar area. Dr. Pisacano said you can check for ticks by feeling your pet’s skin or parting their fur.

If you do find a tick, the method of removal is generally the same.

“Get you a pair of tweezers and if you don’t have any tweezers, you can use a gloved hand, a tissue, a paper towel or something like that, but you want to grab the tick as close to the surface of the skin as possible and gently and slowly pull directly away from the skin,” explained Dr. Gill.

After removing a tick, there are symptoms you need to look out for.

“If you’re having fever, rash, body aches, things like that after a tick bite, you definitely need to let your pediatrician know,” Dr. Gill said.

Symptoms look different in animals.

“Within about a month to about six months is really when you’re gonna turn positive for one of these tests. So we do need to get them tested about one month later. And just look out for those signs we talked about, limping, not eating well,” said Dr. Pisacano.

Dr. Pisacano said tests for Lyme disease are typically done during a pet’s annual exam, so it is important to keep taking them in each year for those tests.

Both Dr. Gill and Dr. Pisacano advise if you do find a tick, saving the tick in a plastic bag or taking a picture of it can help doctors identify what diseases your child or pet may have been exposed to.
Both also suggest calling your doctor or vet if you have any questions or concerns.

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