What not to do when you find a tick on your child

tick comparison

It all started about a week ago.

I found myself frantic on the phone, desperately talking to the poor unfortunate after-hours urgent care employee who answered my call.

She probably didn’t know it, but her motherly, calm voice was just what I needed.
“Don’t worry, sweetie, she’ll be OK.”

I looked at my daughter. I could do this. It was just a tick after all. A small, reddish-brown oval of a creature stuck behind her little ear.


 I pulled her ear back and looked one more time. And wouldn’t you know, the tick came off, just like that. Suddenly, I was confused.

 Looking at the creature in my hand, I realized I made a mistake.

 It wasn’t a tick.

 I put it in a Ziploc bag anyway. Somehow that made me feel less crazy.

 What I thought was an engorged dog tick actually was a seed — a seed the exact color and size as a tick and hiding behind her ear, stuck on her skin, sticking straight out. The only thing missing were those tell-tale little tick-y legs and a head.

 My breathing slowed as I wrapped my head around what happened.

 Looking back, I guess it all really started long before the tick-seed-whatever-you-want-to-call-it.

 A few months ago, I’d talked with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension tick experts who informed me that, despite the harsh winter, there would be no slowing the ticks this summer. Then came my column where I weighed the cons of DEET-based tick spray against the risks of exposing my daughter and family to Lyme disease.

Soon after, my daughter started at a new day care, one with a great playground that backs right up to the woods. Creatures abound — birds, chipmunks, the occasional snake.

 And ticks.

 The school informed parents in late April that they were starting to do tick checks after outdoor playtime. Hours before, on the day I found the seed, my daughter’s teacher informed me they’d found a tick on another child.

I was on high alert.

 As I sat next to her on the couch that evening, giving her a little backrub, my mind wandered. Glancing down, I saw the seed and panicked.

I called her dad. I tried to call her grandmother. I called her doctor. I called urgent care.

I was certain in that moment my little girl would be coming down with Lyme disease, certain my fear of DEET would cause her lifelong harm.

Thankfully, my panic was all for naught, and I moved on from the incident just in time.

Just in time to miss a phone call from the school.

They’d found a tick on my daughter’s head.


Natalie Feulner

About Natalie Feulner

Natalie Feulner is a journalist and “semi-crunchy” cloth diapering momma to a rambunctious toddler named after a county in California. She drinks too much tea and loves to climb rocks but not at the same time.