New Castle News

Closer Look

June 17, 2014

Local pediatrician warns about bad tick season

NEW CASTLE — A local pediatrician is warning parents to watch their children for signs of tick bites.

Dr. Carlos Flores said he is seeing more tick bites this year than he has in 30 years of practice.

He already has seen three children exhibiting signs of Lyme disease: an 11-month-old, a 2-year-old and a 7-year-old. And the tick season doesn’t end until September.

Tracy Bobbert of Grove City is the mother of Sarah Gerber, the 7-year-old who showed symptoms.

Bobbert said that prior to this summer, she had never even seen a tick. But she removed one from another daughter, then a couple of weeks ago, took a much smaller one off Sarah.

About two weeks later, Sarah developed a round, red “bullseye” rash that grew to be approximately six inches in diameter.

She said she also was feeling “a little sick” and the rash felt hot to the touch and itchy.

The pediatrician started her on 14 days of the antibiotic doxycycline and sent a picture of the rash to Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh. Officials there confirmed the diagnosis.

The rash is gone now and she needs no further treatment, Flores said, because she had no other symptoms.

However, the doctor noted that if Sarah had an ongoing headache, joint pain and fever, he would have recommended she be treated at a hospital such as Children’s, which has an infectious disease department.

While all ticks do not transmit Lyme disease, he said, parents should take precautions, especially when hunting or camping.

This includes wearing long pants and long sleeves if possible, Flores said, and checking daily for ticks. If the tick is removed in 24 hours, he said, one simple treatment will prevent the disease.

He recommended anyone who finds a tick should remove it with tweezers, put it in a plastic bag in the refrigerator and take it to the Penn State Extension Office at the courthouse for testing.

Flores said parents should look for a “halo” around the tick bite and not confuse it with ringworm.

He said the red rash could be anywhere in the body, including the scalp, and could migrate to different areas of the body. Some people may not even notice a rash.

He said undetected Lyme disease can lead to joint pain and swelling, headaches, meningitis and heart arrhythmia, adding some people with fibromyalgia are being tested to see if their symptoms are actually from Lyme disease.

Bobbert said the incident has raised her awareness of ticks and their dangers and she now checks her children daily, sprays them with insect repellent and has treated her yard for bugs.

But insect spray may not be the answer, Flores cautioned. He said some bug repellents can be harmful to children, especially those under age 2, who absorb things through skin faster than others.

He said parents should check with a physician or pharmacist or consult a trusted Internet website before using insect repellents on children.

Lyme disease bacteria, called borrelia burgdorferi, can be transmitted only by the deer tick, which is black and about the size of a poppyseed, according to information provided by Flores.

He said cases which develop into full-blown Lyme disease must be reported to the state, but noted the test for the disease is expensive and results in many false negatives.

(Email: grzebieniak@ncnewsonline.com)

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