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Youngsters aged 5 to 14 have the highest incidence of Lyme disease in the United States, according to the Tick-Borne Disease Alliance (TBDA). Lyme disease is spread by deer ticks, which are found in many types of settings at outdoor summer camps, including woodlands, lawns and playing fields, tree stumps and picnic tables.
"Deer ticks are cesspools of disease, and they put your children at risk of contracting Lyme disease and many other potentially debilitating diseases such as babesiosis, anaplasmosis, bartonella, tularemia and mycoplasma," Bob Oley, a public health consultant with the group, said in an alliance news release.
"These microscopic bugs pose an enormous threat to our children, who are especially vulnerable during the summer months. It is imperative to educate ourselves about tick-borne diseases, and take the necessary precautions to protect our children from them."
The TBDA outlined steps parents can take to protect their summer camp-bound children from ticks and tick-borne diseases. Summer camps should have a tick management program in place to protect campers, and should also notify parents right away if an embedded tick is found on their child, as immediate medical treatment may be advisable.
Make sure your child has tick repellant that contains an Environmental Protection Agency-registered active ingredient. Children should wear light-colored clothing that makes it easier to spot ticks and all their outdoor clothes and shoes should be sprayed with permethrin.
If your children attend a day camp, put their outdoor clothes in a separate hamper in the mud room or garage. As soon as possible, put these clothes in the clothes dryer on high heat for 20 to 30 minutes. The heat will kill any ticks that may be on the clothes.
Teach your children about areas they should avoid, the tick-repellant clothes they should wear, how to properly use tick repellant on exposed skin, and how to conduct body checks for ticks after being outdoors and at night before they go to bed.
If your child is younger than 10, talk about tick prevention with a camp counselor and make sure that those in charge of the camp know about these precautions.
-- Robert Preidt
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