New antibiotic guidelines help children during tick season |

New antibiotic guidelines help children during tick season

As tick bite season takes hold in Northwest Colorado and across the country, medical professionals locally are hailing new guidelines that support the use of an antibiotic to help tick bite infections in children.

New Centers for Disease Control guidelines released in February are for the first time supporting the use in children of a highly successful antibiotic, doxycycline, previously thought to have a side effect of staining the teeth of young children.

A study concluded no such side effect for children, and the organization is now supporting the antibiotic as the most effective for the treatment of tick-related infections and diseases including Rocky Mountain spotted fever for people of all ages.

"This is a game changer — the fact that we're going to be able to use the best medicine for children all over the United States," said Dr. Steven Ross, a pediatrician with Sleeping Bear Pediatrics in Steamboat Springs.

Ross said that when the new guidelines came out in February, Americans were already being inundated with media reports about Ebola and Measles, and the changes were overlooked.

"It was just saturation in the news media for health-related problems," he said.

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The same will happen with the new information when it's released in May as part of an updated infections disease report detailing dozens of new guideline changes.

Ross said the important information will make a big difference for local families affected by tick bites every year, and he's already prescribed the antibiotic to a child under 8 with a tick bite illness this month.

During spring, summer and into fall he sees an uptick in the number of tick bite related office visits, with as many as three to five per week. Most are from black-legged “deer” tick or from wood ticks, he said.

Ross recommends taking standard precautions to prevent against tick bites, including wearing longsleeve, light-colored clothing, using 30 percent deet spray and regularly checking for tickets when camping or in other outdoor settings.

"Just be smart about ticks, check each other, and if you see one, use precautions," he said.

Tick bites can lead to 14 human diseases, including those as extreme as Lyme disease, which begins with erythema migrans, an expanding bull's eye rash at the site of a tick bite. Left untreated, the rash can expand to other areas of the body and progress into more serious stages.

A public service announcement by the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association released this month warns that ticks can cause a number of tick-borne illnesses, and should be removed from the skin as soon as possible.

Ross said that whether it’s better identification of ticks or an increase in the number of ticks coming into the area on birds, animals or traveling pets or humans, he has seen more tick bites in recent years.

"Either we go to areas with ticks or the ticks are coming to us," he said. "For some reason, Colorado is getting more ticks."

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Tick safety tips

Ticks should be removed from the skin as soon as possible.

People who remove ticks from a person or per need to wash their hands immediately.

If you become ill after a tick bite or exposure to ticks, seek prompt medical attention for accurate diagnosis and treatment.

Ticks are commonly found in woods or bushy areas with tall grass. They may also inhabit rustic mountain cabins where chipmunks and other rodents may have visited.

Wear protective clothing — long-sleeved shirts and long pants — and do thorough tick checks after being in areas where ticks may be present.

A person who’s breathing is a carbon dioxide generator. Ticks orient to a carbon dioxide gradient, and this is one way they find hosts.

Source: Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and Centers for Disease Control

Tick removal tips from the Centers for Disease Control

Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.

Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.

After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub or soap and water.

Dispose of a live tick by submersing it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers.