DEAR MAYO CLINIC: In the summer, my kids play outdoors most of the day, and we have found ticks on their clothing. Is Lyme disease something I should be worried about? What are the early symptoms? Does bug spray keep ticks away?
ANSWER: Lyme disease is the most common illness spread by ticks in the United States. So it is worth taking precautions to prevent this disease, especially if your children play in wooded, grassy or bushy areas and you live or vacation in an area where Lyme disease is prevalent.
Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium, called Borrelia burgdorferi. Black-legged ticks, also known as deer ticks, which feed on the blood of animals and humans, can carry the bacteria and spread it when they feed.
The ticks tend to live in long grasses, bushes, shrubs and forested areas. If your children play where grass is short or their play area is covered with another material, then ticks aren’t a big concern. If, however, they go hiking in the woods or play in long grass, or if your yard has a significant number of bushes and shrubs, then you need to take steps to make it less likely that your children will end up with ticks.