Symptoms To Help You Identify Lyme Disease And When To Talk To Your Doctor
If you like to spend time outdoors in the summer, youre probably aware of the importance of checking yourself for ticks afterward. And, if you live in certain parts of the country, Lyme disease is very likely on your radar.
But knowing you could get Lyme disease from a tick bite and actually being aware of which symptoms to look out for are two different things. So, what are the Lyme disease symptoms to look for? Heres what you need to know.
How Can Lyme Disease Affect Your Pregnancy
We dont know for sure about the effects of Lyme disease on pregnancy. Untreated Lyme may cause complications during pregnancy, including:
- An infection in the placenta. The placenta grows in your uterus and supplies your baby with food and oxygen through the umbilical cord.
- Stillbirth. This is when a baby dies in the womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
- Congenital heart defects. These are heart conditions that are present at birth. They can affect the hearts shape or how it works, or both.
- Urinary tract defects. The urinary tract is the system of organs that helps your body get rid of waste and extra fluids. Urinary tract defects can cause pain, urinary tract infections, kidney damage and kidney failure.
- Problems with your babys blood, like hyperbilirubinemia. This is when your babys blood has too much bilirubin in it. Bilirubin is a yellow substance that forms as red blood cells break down. Too much bilirubin can cause your baby to have jaundice. This is when your babys skin and the white parts of his eyes look yellow because his liver isn’t fully developed or isn’t working.
Untreated Lyme disease also may cause your baby to have a rash after hes born.
Symptoms Of Lyme Disease
People with Lyme disease may react to it differently, and the symptoms can vary in severity.
Although Lyme disease is commonly divided into three stages early localized, early disseminated, and late disseminated symptoms can overlap. Some people will also present in a later stage of disease without having symptoms of earlier disease.
These are some of the more common symptoms of Lyme disease:
- a flat, circular rash that looks like a red oval or bulls-eye anywhere on your body
- other flu-like symptoms
These symptoms may occur soon after the infection, or months or years later.
Your child may have Lyme disease and not have the bulls-eye rash. According to an early study, results showed roughly 89 percent of children had a rash.
Lyme disease is best treated in the early stages. Treatment for early localized disease is a simple 10- to 14-day course of oral antibiotics to eliminate the infection.
Medications used to treat Lyme disease include:
- doxycycline, amoxicillin, or cefuroxime, which are first-line treatments in adults and children
- cefuroxime and amoxicillin, which are used to treat women who are nursing or breastfeeding
Intravenous antibiotics are used for some forms of Lyme disease, including those with cardiac or central nervous system involvement.
After improvement and to finish the course of treatment, healthcare providers will typically switch to an oral regimen. The complete course of treatment usually takes 1428 days.
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The Role Of Inflammation
The authors point out that there is a difference in the type of Lyme bacteria in Europe compared to the United States. The one in the US is associated with a stronger inflammatory response.
In general, mounting evidence supports the role of inflammation in mood disorders. Could kids in the US with LD be at even greater risk for psychiatric disturbances than their European counterparts? Presently, the answer is unknown, but more study is definitely required.
When looking at the effects of LD or any infection in kids, its important to remember that they are not little adults biologically, and a variety of differences need to be taken into account. In adults with LD, evidence indicates that anywhere from 15%-40% experience neuroborreliosis or neurologic Lyme symptoms.
Studies show that youth are more likely to experience central nervous system symptoms, meaning those limited to the brain and spinal cord, rather than peripheral nervous system manifestations
Peripheral symptoms can include feelings of numbness, pain, tingling, muscle weakness, etc. CNS symptoms which can occur secondary to inflammation in the brain and spinal cord, may result in encephalitis meningitis, as well as radiculoneuritis
Symptomatic manifestations of CNS involvement can include severe headache, stiff neck, fever, light sensitivity, double vision, and leg pain.
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How Can Lyme Disease Be Prevented
Unfortunately, there is currently no vaccine for Lyme disease. But you can avoid Lyme disease by avoiding tick bites, checking for ticks, and removing ticks promptly, before they become lodged in the skin. Some tips:
Avoid tick playgrounds: Ticks like low-level shrubs and grasses, particularly at the edges of wooded areas. If youre hiking, try to stay in the center of the trail and avoid bushwhacking. Walk on cleared paths or pavement through wooded areas and fields when possible.
Dress appropriately: Long pants with legs tucked into socks and closed-toed shoes will help keep ticks away from skin. Light-colored clothing helps make ticks visible.
Insect repellant: Products that contain DEET repel ticks but do not kill them and are not 100 percent effective. Use a brand of insect repellent that is designated as child-safe if your child is 1 year or older. For infants, check with your pediatrician about what brands are safe to use. You can also treat clothing with a product that contains permethrin, which is known to kill ticks on contact.
Shower after outdoor activities are done for the day. It may take four to six hours for ticks to attach firmly to skin. Showering will help remove unattached ticks.
- all parts of the body that bend: behind the knees, between fingers and toes, underarms and groin
- other areas where ticks are commonly found: belly button, in and behind the ears, neck, hairline, and top of the head
- anywhere clothing presses on the skin
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The Chance Of Getting Lyme Disease
Not all ticks in England carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
But it’s still important to be aware of ticks and to safely remove them as soon as possible, just in case.
Ticks that may cause Lyme disease are found all over the UK, but high-risk places include grassy and wooded areas in southern and northern England and the Scottish Highlands.
Ticks are tiny spider-like creatures that live in woods, areas with long grass, and sometimes in urban parks and gardens. They’re found all over the UK.
Ticks do not jump or fly. They attach to the skin of animals or humans that brush past them.
Once a tick bites into the skin, it feeds on blood for a few days before dropping off.
How To Safeguard Your Family And Prevent Lyme Disease
Now that youre aware of what Lyme disease is and how it affects your family, it pays to attempt to prevent the issue from occurring.
Some of the ways to prevent contracting Lyme disease include:
- Cutting down tall grass and brush to reduce the chance of ticks thriving
- Dress your child in long sleeves and pants if they play out in wooded areas
- Use a child-safe bug spray that prevents ticks
- Check your child after theyve been out playing and pay attention to skin and hair for ticks
- Have your child bathe and wash their hair and clothes when out in tick-prone areas
- Keep your animals outside and make sure theyre medically treated
Investigate how severe Lyme disease is in your area. Your neighbors or city might have information on what to do to prevent it, and how they manage it given your specific location.
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Signs And Symptoms Of Lyme Disease
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Lyme disease is an underreported, under-researched, and often debilitating disease transmitted by spirochete bacteria. The spiral-shaped bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, are transmitted by blacklegged deer ticks. Lymes wide range of symptoms mimic those of many other ailments, making it difficult to diagnose .
The blacklegged ticks can also transmit other disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and parasites. These are known as coinfections . These ticks that transmit Lyme are increasing their geographical spread. As of 2016, they were found in about half the counties in 43 of 50 states in the United States .
Lyme is the fifth most reported of notifiable diseases in the United States, with an estimated 329,000 new cases found annually . Some studies estimate that there are as many as 1 million cases of Lyme in the United States every year .
Most people with Lyme who are treated right away with three weeks of antibiotics have a good prognosis.
But if youre not treated for weeks, months, or even years after infection, Lyme becomes more difficult to treat. Within days of the bite, the bacteria can move to your central nervous system, muscles and joints, eyes, and heart .
Here is a list of 13 common signs and symptoms of Lyme disease.
What Is The Treatment For Lyme Disease In Children
Treatment for Lyme disease depends on the age of the patient. Most children receive amoxicillin, a very common antibiotic which is effective when the disease is caught early. Older children may receive a different type of antibiotic, doxycycline.
Whichever antibiotic they receive, they usually take medicine for about 21 days. Most patients are cured at the end of this treatment with no long-term effects.
“It’s very unusual for patients to take the medicines and not be cured,” says Dr. Kahn. “There is no resistance as far as we know of the bacteria to these antibiotics.”
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Ongoing Symptoms Of Lyme Disease
A few people who are diagnosed and treated for Lyme disease continue to have symptoms, like tiredness, aches and loss of energy, that can last for years.
These symptoms are often compared to fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.
It’s not clear why this happens to some people and not others. This means there’s also no agreed treatment.
Speak to a doctor if your symptoms come back, or do not improve, after treatment with antibiotics.
The doctor may be able to offer you further support if needed, such as:
- referral for a care needs assessment
- telling your employer, school or higher education institution that you require a gradual return to activities
- communicating with children and families’ social care
Page last reviewed: 05 July 2021 Next review due: 05 July 2024
Can Lyme Disease Be Prevented Or Avoided
The best way to prevent Lyme disease is to avoid being bitten by ticks. When you are outdoors, follow these guidelines:
- Avoid areas that are wooded, brushy, or have tall grass.
- Walk in the center of trails.
- Use an insect repellent with at least 20% DEET. It can be put on clothing or sparingly on the skin. Dont apply it to the face or hands of children.
- Treat clothing, tents, or other gear with repellents containing 0.5% permethrin.
- Wear light-colored clothing. This makes it easier to see and remove ticks from your clothes.
- Wear a long-sleeved shirt and long pants. Tuck your pant legs into your socks or boots for added protection.
After you get home, check everything and everyone for ticks.
- Bathe or shower as soon as you can to wash off any ticks that have not attached to you.
- Check your entire body for ticks. Use a mirror for places you cant see. Check your children and your pets. Common tick locations include the back of the knees, groin area, underarms, ears, scalp, and the back of the neck.
- Check any gear you used, including coats, backpacks, or tents.
Tumble dry clothes or blankets on high heat in the dryer for 10 to 15 minutes. This should kill any ticks. If clothes are dirty, wash them in hot water and dry on high heat for 60 minutes.
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Pediatric Lyme Disease Can Cause Behavior Problems
Pediatric Lyme disease has been misdiagnosed as OCD, or pediatric Bi-polar disorder. It can also cause Depression. Exposure to Lyme and other tick-borne diseases may also trigger PANS which is an encephalitic-type autoimmune disease that can be induced by different illnesses. In PANS, cells that should be fighting the disease itself break through the blood brain barrier of the child and attack the brain. When a child exhibits sudden changes in behavior with no known cause, the possibility of Lyme and other tick-borne infections should be considered.
How Can You Tell If You Have Lyme Disease Or Something Else
Lyme disease can be tricky to diagnose, given that the symptoms can mimic those of other illnesses, says Thomas Russo, M.D., professor and chief of infectious disease at the University at Buffalo in New York. If you have the classic rash, you can probably assume you have Lyme disease, Dr. Russo says. But not all symptoms are classic and Lyme disease can mimic a variety of other things.
Still, your doctor can order blood tests, including an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay test to look for antibodies to B. burgdorferi in your blood, the Mayo Clinic says. Another blood test, called a Western blot test, is usually given to confirm the diagnosis, per the Mayo Clinic.
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How Do You Test For Lyme Disease In Children
Doctors can usually make a diagnosis of Lyme disease based on a physical exam and the child’s medical history. They can also use a blood test to confirm a diagnosis in children who are at high risk for the condition due to travel and a known tick bite.
Parents and physicians should be careful when testing for Lyme disease because tests can result in false positives.
“If the child has a tick bite but is not presenting the classic symptoms and hasn’t traveled to a Lyme-endemic area, I would be reluctant to move forward with testing for the condition,” says Dr. Kahn.
What Specialists Treat Lyme Disease
A primary-care provider such as a family practitioner, internist, or child’s pediatrician may initially diagnose Lyme disease. In areas where Lyme disease is common, these physicians often treat the illness, as well. However, you may be referred to a specialist for treatment. Rheumatologists specialize in diseases that affect the joints and muscles, including infectious diseases such as Lyme disease. You may also see a neurologist if you experience nerve problems or an infectious disease specialist who can help treat Lyme disease in the later stages.
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How Is Lyme Disease Diagnosed In A Child
The healthcare provider will ask about your childs symptoms and health history. He or she will ask about recent tick bites. He or she will give your child a physical exam.
Lyme is usually not hard to diagnose. OBut other conditions may cause similar symptoms. The main symptom is often a rash, but more than 1 in 5 people infected with Lyme dont have the rash. In the earliest stage, diagnosis is usually based on symptoms and a history of a tick bite. In later stages, blood testing is very important to make a diagnosis of Lyme disease.
Who Gets Lyme Disease
Anyone bitten by an infected deer tick can get Lyme disease. Most U.S. cases of Lyme disease happen in Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin. But Lyme disease is found in other parts of the U.S., Europe, Asia, and Australia too.
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What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of Lyme Disease
The symptoms of Lyme disease vary from person to person, but often happen in three stages:
Two Early Stages
1. For the first few weeks, symptoms may include:
- a rash near the tick bite, which usually is round or oval. Some rashes have a clear middle .
- inflammation of the brain and spinal cord
If Lyme disease goes untreated for months, the earlier symptoms can continue. The person also can develop arthritis .
What To Do If You Have A Blacklegged Tick Bite
Remove the tick by pulling it directly out with fine-tipped tweezers. Lift upward with slow and even pressure. Dont twist when removing it. Dont crush it or put soap or other substances on it. Dont apply heat to it.
Place the tick in a resealable container. See if you can identify what kind of a tick it is.
Immediately after removing the tick, wash your skin well with soap and water or with rubbing alcohol.
Not all ticks carry Lyme. The Lyme bacteria is transmitted only by blacklegged ticks in their nymph or adult stage.
Save the tick to show your doctor. The doctor will want to determine if its a blacklegged tick and if theres evidence of feeding. Ticks enlarge as they feed. Your risk of getting Lyme from an infected tick increases with the length of time that the tick fed on your blood.
Pull the tick out with tweezers and save it in a resealable container for identification.
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Who Is At Risk For Lyme Disease
Anyone can get a tick bite. But people who spend lots of time outdoors in wooded, grassy areas are at a higher risk. This includes campers, hikers, and people who work in gardens and parks.
Most tick bites happen in the summer months when ticks are most active and people spend more time outdoors. But you can get bitten in the warmer months of early fall, or even late winter if temperatures are unusually high. And if there is a mild winter, ticks may come out earlier than usual.