Written by: Heidi Reed, Director at One Forest
As parents, caregivers, and educators we are in constant motion with baby-proofing, screening, and guiding our children through risks in their world. One risk that holds a lot of fear is that of a tick bite. It istruly amazing how this small arachnid can cause such a big fear. The fear is real! I have done extensive research on ticks, have completed my Wilderness First Aid training, and have spent much time in the outdoors. Even still my motherly protective instinct goes into full worry mode when I see a tick crawling on a child’s skin and worse when it has already latched on. Being in the woods and in many natural settings, ticks are inevitable. However, there are some all-natural methods to keep your cool and stay safe.First, it’s about prevention. It’s always good to try to wear long pants and long sleeves when exploring. BUT kids love to get naked and I am not going to stop them from feeling wild and free!
Alternatively, you can spray them with an all-natural bug spray with deterring essential oils. I personally use California Baby’s Bug
Repellent  for babies and Doterra Terrashield Outdoor Blend  for young children and adults. Here  is some research the CDC collected on natural tick repellents. Also, the EPA has a great search engine  that helps determine how long products last and
whether they are better for ticks or mosquitos.
Check for ticks after leaving a tick habitat. Baths are good ways to secretly check for ticks during the tick seasons – March to mid May and August to November. They are looking for the warm areas on the body (behind ears, under arms, groin area, etc.).
If you find a tick grab a pair of good tweezers, or use a tick remover, and quickly pull it out (as close to the skin as possible). Make sure that the whole body of the tick is removed - including its head. It takes a long time for ticks to transmit disease into their host (your child). If you remove the tick within a few hours of it attaching the chances of getting a disease are very very low.
I like to keep the ticks we find in the season on a piece of clear tape for further inspection and study.
Signs of Lyme disease are a rash around the bite location, a feeling of heavy body and limbs, and other flu-like symptoms. If you suspect you have Lyme disease it is better to see a doctor sooner rather than later.
It is important that we don’t create a fear of ticks in our children. Being educated, aware, and respectful of these creatures is important, but I believe we can do this in a way of wonder. Finding the language that works best for you and your family can help achieve a playful wonder so we can foster the childs curiosity and respect rather than their fear. In our family we would say something like this “That silly tick found your skin. We better
take it off and put it someplace else.” … Or “ Wow! That tick is really cool. Let’s take it off your skin so we can get a better look at it.” Then you put it on clear tape to observe the tick with a magnifying glass or microscope.
There are three ticks that you can find in Virginia. 1) Blacklegged Tick, 2) Lone Star Tick, and 3) American Dog Tick. Some cool facts about ticks are that they are arachnids and not insects because they have eight legs and no antennae. They are also an important part of their ecosystem providing food for birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Maybe you and your child can find more cool facts about ticks!
So get outside and leave the fear behind.
About the Author: Heidi Reed, Founder and Head Forest School Leader of One Forest, a forest farm and woodland activity space located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. When she is not leading programs in the woods at One Forest you will find her traveling, with her family, across the glob sharing her passion for nature. Follow her outdoor adventures on Instagram @one.forest