Written by Debra Beaulieu-Volk
Before we begin, a confession. There are two things that make me mildly irrational: actual or potential harm coming to one of my children and bugs.
So as you can imagine, the sight of a tick burrowing its head into my seven-year-old’s flesh—the threat of Lyme disease or babesiosis aside—did not inspire some of my best moments.As a parent, I get caught in the same mental tug-of-war as anyone else, with medically validated advice grasping one end of the rope, and self-doubt, worst-case scenarios, and various forms of peer pressure yanking wildly at the other.
As for the tick scenario, we recently posted on Salud’s Facebook page the correct steps to follow, with a link to further information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is sound advice. And technically, with the exception of rule No. 1—don’t panic—I did okay.
In the end everything was fine, but the experience illustrates a clear example of how straightforward medical issues can be emotionally complex when it comes to our kids.
Here’s how the incident played out, and what we can learn from it:
1. Freak out. I’d been idly playing with my daughter’s hair when I noticed a bug on the back of her neck that wouldn’t brush off. She’d spent the night at her father’s and they’d gone hiking the prior afternoon.
Never having dealt with a tick situation before, the realization it’d been on her overnight made me nervous, and I didn’t hide it very well. Picking up on my anxiety, the kids got worked up, too, making the whole process more difficult.
2. Extract tick. This was the easy part. I got the whole thing out intact, sealed it into a Ziploc, and then cleaned the tiny wound with soap and water, as per CDC instructions.
3. Debate whether to call the pediatrician’s office. I’d reviewed several lists delineating “when to call your doctor,” and determined that the possibility it had been on her for over 24 hours was justification enough. Plus, I reasoned I’d just “let them know,” for public health reasons.
4. Breathe. My call may have been superfluous, but the nurse who called back provided not just medical advice, but also the emotional reassurance my daughter and I needed (thanks to step 1). As the nurse advised, I marked my calendar with the date to reference if my daughter later developed a fever, rash, or other symptoms.
5. Instagram it (or it didn’t happen). I had taken three photos—of the tick embedded, removed, and bagged—which I fashioned into a digital collage and posted on Instagram in close to our first calm moment.
While my real motivation was to reap a little cyber-pat on the back for a job (not so) well done, I spun it as a public service announcement to remind fellow parents to check their kids after playing outside.
6. Welcome the trolls. “Yay, comments!” I thought. But it quickly turned to, “Ooh, some really smart people and great parents are suggesting I should get my daughter on antibiotics.” In response, I summarized the instructions I was given and went about my day.
When posting about parenting decisions (in my case, not requesting antibiotics), we open ourselves up to others’ opinions, which can be tough to ignore. But I’d already solicited and followed excellent advice from the most credible source: My pediatrician’s office.
7. Reflect. As I said, all turned out fine, though it could have been far smoother. We’re all human, of course.
But when it comes to the health and well-being of our children—which we all agree is a top priority—we need to be disciplined enough to regulate our emotions, trust advice given by our pediatricians or vetted sources such as healthychildren.org, and think twice about the ramifications of what we share online.