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5 important tips to prevent Lyme disease in children

2. Use a natural tick repellent

5 important tips to prevent Lyme disease in children

I remember spending countless hours outdoors as a child when the weather was nice. Riding my bike, building forts and hiking through the creeks and fields that surrounded my neighborhoods was a normal part of growing up, and I never thought twice about it. Nor did my parents. As a child of the ‘60s, no one ever worried about potential dangers of kids playing in their neighborhoods, other than to be aware of strangers.


But children today face new risks and challenges, even when they come presented in tiny packages—ticks, especially if you happen to live in New England, the Central Midwest or other parts of the world where ticks are found. Specific types of ticks called black-legged ticks or deer ticks are known to spread Lyme disease and other types of infections. When the tick bites you, it can transmit bacteria or viruses through its saliva, causing infection.

These ticks are incredibly tiny to the naked eye, so can be easy to miss, even if you are looking for them. While some children get Lyme disease and recover quickly with treatment, others go on to develop post-Lyme syndrome or more commonly referred to as chronic Lyme disease.

Prevention is always the best medicine, so here are 5 important tips to help prevent Lyme disease:

1. Wear long clothing when outdoors

Ticks need to attach to your skin to bite you, so wearing protective clothing prevents the tick from making direct contact with your skin. Although it may be uncomfortable when it’s warm outside, it’s the best way to protect your child against a tick bite. Dress your kids in long pants, a long sleeve shirt, socks and shoes to get the most protection.

2. Use a natural tick repellent

Research shows that essential oils from several plants can help keep ticks away, especially those of lemongrass, cedar, lavender, geranium and eucalyptus. It is best to spray the oil over the clothing and not directly on the skin to prevent any skin irritation. I recommend avoiding using potentially toxic chemicals such as DEET, which can cause skin irritation, burning eyes, difficulty breathing and headaches.

3. Avoid letting children play in areas with dense brush, bushes, high grass or deep woods

These are areas where ticks tend to live, so the best prevention is to stay away from their home.

4. Keep your yard safe

Plant trees, shrubs and flowers away from areas that your kids normally play. Ticks cannot jump, so avoiding direct contact with these plants greatly reduces the risk of getting a tick bite. Spraying your yard with garlic oil has been shown to reduce the number of ticks by up to 60%. You may need to apply the garlic oil several times over the course of the year, but it is safe for people, pets and plants.

5. Do regular tick checks

When your kids come in from playing outside, have them remove their clothes and examine their skin closely for ticks. Ticks like to go to the warm, moist areas of the body, so the back of the knees, armpits, groin and scalp are common places for ticks to migrate. However, it is a good idea to look over their entire body to make sure there are no ticks on or attached to their skin.

If you find a tick, you want to remove it as soon as possible. Early removal of a tick can significantly lower the risk of getting Lyme disease.

There are so many health benefits to being outdoors, including getting physical activity, breathing fresh air and having sun exposure to help maintain healthy levels of vitamin D. If you live in an area where Lyme disease is common, it would be easy to want to keep your kids indoors to help protect them against Lyme disease. But part of growing up is being able to experience all the wonderful things the outdoors has to offer.

After I was infected with Lyme disease, I admit, I was hesitant to spend much time in my yard, go hiking or really do anything that involved spending any significant time outside the comfort of house walls. Living in Connecticut (Lyme disease is named after Lyme, Connecticut), I knew that I was in the “hot zone” of Lyme. But I have learned to overcome this fear of ticks and be vigilant when I am outside. I protect myself and have enjoyed being an outdoors person again.

You can do the same things for your children and family and take advantage of being out in Mother Nature.

Learn more about the symptoms of Lyme disease here. If you have any concerns, contact your child’s pediatrician.

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    Tips parents need to know about poor air quality and caring for kids with asthma

    There are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

    When wildfires struck the West Coast in September 2020, there was a lot for parents to worry about. For parents of children with asthma, though, the danger could be even greater. "There are more than 400 toxins that are present in wildfire smoke. That can activate the immune system in ways that aren't helpful by both causing an inflammatory response and distracting the immune system from fighting infection," says Amy Oro, MD, a pediatrician at Stanford Children's Health. "When smoke enters into the lungs, it causes irritation and muscle spasms of the smooth muscle that is around the small breathing tubes in the lungs. This can lead to difficulty with breathing and wheezing. It's really difficult on the lungs."

    With the added concern of COVID-19 and the effect it can have on breathing, many parents feel unsure about how to keep their children protected. The good news is that there are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

    Here are tips parents need to know about how to deal with poor air quality when your child has asthma.

    Minimize smoke exposure.

    Especially when the air quality index reaches dangerous levels, it's best to stay indoors as much as possible. You can find out your area's AQI at AirNow.gov. An under 50 rating is the safest, but between 100-150 is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, such as children with asthma. "If you're being told to stay indoors, listen. If you can, keep the windows and doors closed," Oro says.

    Do your best to filter the air.

    According to Oro, a HEPA filter is your best bet to effectively clean pollutants from the air. Many homes are equipped with a built-in HEPA filter in their air conditioning systems, but you can also get a canister filter. Oro says her family (her husband and children all suffer from asthma) also made use of a hack from the New York Times and built their own filter by duct taping a HEPA furnace filter to the front of a box fan. "It was pretty disgusting what we accumulated in the first 20 hours in our fan," she says.

    Avoid letting your child play outside or overly exert themselves in open air.

    "Unfortunately, cloth masks don't do very much [to protect you from the smoke pollution]," Oro says. "You really need an N95 mask, and most of those have been allocated toward essential workers." To keep at-risk children safer, Oro recommends avoiding brisk exercise outdoors. Instead, set up an indoor obstacle course or challenge your family to jumping jacks periodically to keep everyone moving safely.

    Know the difference between smoke exposure and COVID-19.

    "COVID-19 can have a lot of the same symptoms—dry cough, sore throat, shortness of breath and chest pain could overlap. But what COVID and other viruses generally cause are fever, chills, vomiting, diarrhea and body aches. Those would tell you it's not just smoke exposure," Oro says. When a child has been exposed to smoke, they often complain of a "scrape" in their throat, burning eyes, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain or wheezing. If the child has asthma, parents should watch for a flare of symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing or a tight sensation in their chest.

    Unfortunately, not much is known about long-term exposure to wildfire smoke on a healthy or compromised immune system, but elevated levels of air pollution have been associated with increased COVID-19 rates. That's because whenever there's an issue with your immune system, it distracts your immune system from fighting infections and you have a harder time fighting off viruses. Limiting your exposure to wildfire smoke is your best bet to keep immune systems strong.

    Have a plan in place if you think your child is suffering from smoke exposure.

    Whatever type of medication your child takes for asthma, make sure you have it on-hand and that your child is keeping up with regular doses. Contact your child's pediatrician, especially if your area has a hazardous air quality—they may want to adjust your child's medication schedule or dosage to prevent an attack. Oro also recommends that, if your child has asthma, it might be helpful to have a stethoscope or even a pulse oximeter at home to help diagnose issues with your pediatrician through telehealth.

    Most importantly, don't panic.

    In some cases, social distancing and distance learning due to COVID may be helping to keep sensitive groups like children with asthma safer. Oro says wildfires in past years have generally resulted in more ER visits for children, but the most recent fires haven't seen the same results. "A lot of what we've seen is that the smoke really adversely affects adults, especially older adults over 65," Oro says. "Children tend to be really resilient."

    This article was sponsored by Stanford Children's Health. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

    Our Partners

    This post is brought to you by Staples. While this was a sponsored opportunity, all content and opinions expressed here are my own.

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    With so much on our plates these days, I need a visual reminder of our daily schedule or I'll forget everything. This dry erase version makes it easy to keep track of Zoom meetings and virtual classes—and I also love using the corkboard to display my daughter's latest work from art class.

    Natural Recycled 3-Ring Binder

    From tracking our curriculum progress to organizing my family's paperwork, I can never have enough binders. Even better, this neutral version is pretty enough that I can display them on the bookshelf.

    Bamboo storage drawers

    The instant you start homeschooling, it can feel like you're suddenly drowning in papers, craft supplies and more. Fortunately, these simple bamboo drawers can be tucked into the cabinet or even displayed on top (seriously, they're that cute!) to keep what we need organized and close at hand.

    Laminated world map

    I love this dry-erase map for our geography lessons, but the real secret? It also makes a cute piece of wall decor for my work space.

    Rolling 7-drawer cabinet

    When you're doing it all from home, you sometimes have to roll with the punches—I strongly recommend getting an organizational system that rolls with you. On days when both my husband and I are working from home and I need to move my daughter's classes to another room, this 7-drawer cabinet makes it easy to bring the classroom with us.

    Letterboard

    From our first day of school photo to displaying favorite quotes to keep myself motivated, this 12"x18" letterboard is my favorite thing to display in our home.

    Expandable tablet stand

    Word to the wise: Get a pretty tablet stand you won't mind seeing out every day. (Because between virtual playdates, my daughter's screen time and my own personal use, this thing never gets put away.)

    Neutral pocket chart

    Between organizing my daughter's chore chart, displaying our weekly sight words and providing a fits-anywhere place to keep supplies on hand, this handy little pocket chart is a must-have for homeschooling families.

    Totable fabric bins

    My ultimate hack for getting my family to clean up after themselves? These fabric bins. I can use them to organize my desk, store my oldest's books and even keep a bin of toys on hand for the baby to play with while we do school. And when playtime is over, it's easy for everyone to simply put everything back in the bin and pop it in the cabinet.

    Looking for study solutions for older children? Hop over to Grown & Flown for their top picks for Back to School.

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    "The only pressure for me now is I have to live to be, like, 107, you know? No pressure!"

    This is the decade that saw the face of first-time motherhood change. The number of first-time mamas under 30 is shrinking, while more and more women are becoming moms after 40.

    Cameron Diaz is one of them. The actress and businesswoman, now 48, became a mom in January at the age of 47. In a new episode of Naomi Campbell's YouTube series, No Filter, Diaz opens up about what it's like to become a mom in your fourth decade.

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