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What to do when the cross country team comes to your house covered in ticks

Audrey and Allison Miller starting a cross country race at Sunken Meadow Park
Elizabeth Kathryn Gerold-Miller

If you are the parent of a cross country runner, you are likely to be quite knowledgeable about the dangers of ticks or mites, how to protect against them, and how to check for and remove them. What the manuals do not tell you is what to do when a whole group of kids comes to your house covered in them. This experience is likely to happen at least once to the parent who hosts any kind of gathering after practice. This post will share my experience with dealing with this unfortunate but likely event.

Over the summer, my daughter was put in charge of leading the long distance conditioning, which consisted of daily runs from 8:00 to 10:00 a.m. at a local park. After one of them, she had a group of girls come back to the house to work on some summer Advanced Placement work. They had just entered the house when one of them looked at her phone and said, “Mimi says she found 42 ticks on her!”

“I don’t believe that,” said another, “She’s exaggerating.”

“You better check yourselves again,” I said, guiding them to the kitchen and taking out the alcohol, cotton balls, and tweezers.

As the other girls looked over their legs, I looked at my daughter’s. “I already checked,” she insisted.

“Oh yeah, what’s this?” I asked, holding up a miniscule nymph tick with the tweezers.

“It’s a speck of dirt, Mom!” she insisted.

“What are these moving legs then?” I asked, showing her more closely. She couldn’t believe it.

I got a shot-glass sized cup and filled it with alcohol to dip the tick in, killing it and disinfecting the tweezers before I handed them to the next girl who found one. I told them to wipe the area with a cotton ball soaked in alcohol. Within 10 minutes, the cup was filled with impossibly small tick nymphs.

I told them to inspect each other, including hair, then each go to the bathroom to look under their clothing.

Next, they all went in the pool. I washed all of their clothing in hot water, then dried it on the hot cycle. All of their shoes went into plastic bags and then were placed in the sun. I swept and vacuumed.

We called the coach to inform him, and consulted on a change of location for the next practice. I reminded the girls to watch for rashes, fevers, and other symptoms for 30 days. Of course, parents were also informed.

[A few years ago, a similar episode happened with mites/chiggers. In that case, the jump in the pool went first, followed by inspection and a full head and body olive oil treatment.]

As I was writing this, my husband looked over my shoulder and observed, “So they’re in the car then too.”

Time to vacuum the car.