Sunday 16 May 2021

Uptick in tick bites in children’s neck and scalp, researchers find

Closeup of a full tick crawling on human skin

Children are more likely to be bitten by ticks in the neck and scalp than thought, researchers have found, and parents are being urged to check those spots particularly carefully now that the tick season has started.

The recommendation comes from Wageningen University and national health institute RIVM which analysed some 2,000 tick bites from 2019 and 2020. They found that in 32% of cases involving children, the tick had bitten their neck or scalp. In adults, however, ticks concentrate mainly on the legs (55%) and the torso (25%), and just 3% of adult bites were on the neck or head.

The belief that ticks prefer the more humid areas of the body, such as the groin, was not borne out by the research and only 7% to 9% of the bites were in the groin area. These bites did take some eight hours longer to be discovered, increasing the chance of Lyme’s disease.

Some one in five ticks carry Lyme’s, which shows up like a red spot or ring on the skin. It can cause flu-like symptoms and in some cases more serious long-term effects, like heart disease or nerve pain. Some 27,000 cases of Lyme disease are registered each year – out of some 1,5 million bites – and 1,000 to 2,500 people experience long-term consequences.

Most tick bites were reported in the provinces of Gelderland and Utrecht while Zeeland and Flevoland recorded fewest.

This week is tick week in the Netherlands and people are being warned to be extra vigilant in the coming months.

‘We had a warm period as early as February and the number of tick bites rose as a result,’ RIVM researcher Kees van den Wijngaard told broadcaster NOS. ‘The number has now fallen again but once the warmer weather arrives and people are spending more time in nature or in their gardens, they have to check their bodies for bites.’

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