School’s out and it’s almost time to send the kids off to camp. Parents across the country are packing travel bags filled with swim goggles, sunscreen and other summertime necessities for their children, but one of the most important things parents need to keep in mind as their young ones head off to camp is tick prevention.
Lyme disease is the fastest-growing infectious disease and the most common tick-borne disease in the country, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Maine, Lyme affected 1,000 people in 2011 and has sickened more than 180 so far this year.
Higher infection rates of tick-borne diseases occur in children aged two to 14, making young campers prime targets for ticks — and tick prevention. The Tick-Borne Disease Alliance suggests assembling a summer camp survival kit:
Tick-repellent clothing. Brands such as Insect Shield, ExOfficio’s BugsAway or ElimiTick can be purchased from retailers including L.L. Bean and Eastern Mountain Sports and are effective for up to 70 washes. Clothing-safe tick sprays such as those with permethrin, an insecticide that repels and kills ticks, are a great alternative to pretreated clothing. Footwear, socks and sleeping bags should always be treated, along with pants and shirts.
Insect repellent. Include a repellant registered with the Environmental Protection Agency. Many brands come in easy-to-carry travel sizes that are perfect to take on long adventures. DEET is a well-known repellent ingredient, but some research questions how safe it is for children. Parents may want to try a spray such as Buzz Away Extreme, Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent or Avon Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus Expedition.
Maximum coverage clothing. Children should pack a pair of pretreated, light-colored long pants, a long-sleeve shirt and a hat. Reducing the amount of skin exposed means limiting the number of places a tick can attack.
Resealable bags. When returning from the outdoors, a child should place any untreated dirty clothes in a resealable bag until the clothes can be put in a dryer on high heat for 15 to 30 minutes, which will kill any ticks. Sealing up untreated dirty clothes will prevent any ticks from being transported to the child’s clean clothes, bedding and anywhere else.
Lots of soap. Many ticks are so small that they can go unnoticed. Showering immediately after spending time outside will help to spot and remove unattached ticks. Bath time is the perfect time for a child to carefully inspect themselves for any unwanted hitchhikers.
Contributed by the Tick-Borne Disease Alliance, a New York nonprofit that advocates nationally for research towards a cure for Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.