What Is Lyme Disease
As kids start spending time outdoors, many parents are concerned about disease, the most common tick-borne disease in the U.S.
In the U.S., Lyme disease is most common in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states and the northern Midwest. Although Lyme disease occurs throughout the year, we see the majority of cases between June and October.
When Lyme disease is discovered and treated early, the vast majority of children make a full recovery. But left untreated, the bacteria that cause Lyme can attack many systems of your child’s body, including the skin, heart, nerves, and joints. Unfortunately, your child can contract Lyme disease more than once, even if it has been treated before.
Symptoms Of Lyme Disease In Children
Could your child be suffering from a life-altering disease?
It looks like any other disease contracted during childhood, but causes significant problems when left untreated. This silent culprit is known as Lyme disease, and its easy to pick up in almost any setting outside.
What are the best ways to avoid it to protect yourself and your family? Is there any way to detect Lyme disease in children?
Read on and learn everything about how to take care of your kids and keep them healthy. That way, if they do run into the disease, youll know what it is and how to treat it right away.
What To Do If You Find A Tick
If you see a tick, try to remove it from your childs body. If the tick was on the body for less than 36 hours, it may help prevent infection.
To safely remove a tick:
- Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick at its head or mouth, close to the skin.
- Pull firmly on the tick until it releases the skin. Try to ease out any parts that get stuck in the skin.
- Wash the bite area with rubbing alcohol or soap and water and apply an antiseptic lotion or cream.
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How We Care For Lyme Disease
The Division of Infectious Diseases at Boston Children’s provides comprehensive care for children and adolescents with Lyme disease and other infections. Our services include consultation, evaluation, treatment, and management of long-term complications of Lyme disease.
The commitment and compassion with which we care for all children and families is matched only by the pioneering spirit of discovery and innovation that drives us to think differently, to find answers, and to build a better tomorrow for children everywhere.
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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Which Areas Are More Likely To Have It
The tick that causes Lyme disease has been moving from the Northeast and upper Midwest into the Southern and Western U.S., Mexico, and Canada. Cases in California and Florida are on the rise. After a drop between 2017 and 2018, the numbers jumped a little bit in 2019.
But most Lyme cases in 2019 were in 15 states: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New
Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Washington, DC, is also a hotspot.
In 2019, Pennsylvania had the most Lyme infections, with 6,763. New York was next, with 2,847 cases.
In the Southern U.S., where itâs hotter, ticks stay under leaves so they don’t dry out. This means people donât get Lyme from Southern ticks very often because they don’t usually come out to bite.
Even though people only report about 30,000 cases of Lyme infection in the U.S. each year, there are actually around 476,000 a year. The same tick also can spread other diseases, including babesiosis, anaplasmosis, and Powassan virus. Those diseases are also on the rise in the U.S.
Whoâs likeliest to get Lyme disease?
Boys up to age 15 and men between the ages of 40 and 60 are the most likely to get Lyme disease. Thatâs because they tend to play outside and go camping, hunting, and hiking.
Why are there more ticks now than there used to be?
There are several reasons why Lyme is spreading. Some of these are:
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.
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Wide Range Of Signs And Symptoms Of Lyme Disease
Studies indicate that at least 50% of patients with Lyme disease do not exhibit the classic Bulls-eye rash. When a rash is present, it can appear anywhere on the body. It does not always appear at the site of the tick bite. The rash usually appears between 3 30 days after the tick bite.
A rash due to Lyme disease is typically not itchy or painful. It may fade and then reappear and it can be confused with a spider bite. Atypical rashes can also occur. And when multiple rashes appear on the body, it may be an indication that the Borrelia burgdorferi spirochete has disseminated beyond the tick bite and the disease is in a more advanced stage.
If left untreated, the infection can spread to other parts of the body, including the brain and central nervous system, cardiovascular system, peripheral and autonomic nervous system, along with the muscles and joints, and eyes.
How To Avoid Tick Bites
To reduce the chance of being bitten:
- cover your skin while walking outdoors and tuck your trousers into your socks
- use insect repellent on your clothes and skin products containing DEET are best
- stay on clear paths whenever possible
- wear light-coloured clothing so ticks are easier to see and brush off
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Lyme Disease Signs And Symptoms As Nurse Spent Years In Pain Before Diagnosis
Spread to humans by ticks, Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that can leave you feeling really unwell.
- 12:29, 3 MAR 2022
The tick must be present on your skin for approximately 24 to 48 hours in order to transmit the infection.
However, many who have become infected with Lyme disease do not realise that the tick is attached to them until it is too late.
Much like Louise Cole-Jones, who spent years in pain and thousands of pounds on private medical care before being diagnosed with the disease.
Almost two decades after being bitten by a tick aged 18, the nurse has finally been diagnosed with a host of tick-borne illnesses.
Despite being a qualified nurse, she claims that she had been overlooked by health professionals who misdiagnosed her on a number of occasions after reporting a variety of different symptoms linked to the disease.
Louise visited her GP as she believed she had Lyme disease shortly after being bitten, however it has taken 20 years for her to be officially diagnosed.
She said she was tested for the illness and to her surprise, the result came back negative.
According to Lyme Disease UK, testing can generate between 170 and 560 times as many false negative results compared to methods used for diagnosing HIV.
But what are the the signs and symptoms of the disease?
Regression And Other Symptoms In Children
Children are the largest population of Lyme patients.
The CDC study of reported Lyme cases from 19922006 found that the incidence of new cases was highest among 5- to 14-year-olds . About one quarter of reported Lyme cases in the United States involve children under 14 years old .
Children can have all the signs and symptoms of Lyme that adults have, but they may have trouble telling you exactly what they feel or where it hurts.
You may notice a decline in school performance, or your childs mood swings may become problematic.
Your childs social and speech skills or motor coordination may regress. Or your child may lose their appetite.
Children are more likely than adults to have arthritis as an initial symptom 01267-2/fulltext#sec0040 rel=nofollow> 25).
In a 2012 Nova Scotian study of children with Lyme, 65 percent developed Lyme arthritis . The knee was the most commonly affected joint.
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What Are Possible Complications Of Lyme Disease In A Child
Some children may develop post-Lyme disease syndrome . This means that some symptoms last longer than 6 months. Symptoms can include:
- Ongoing muscle and nerve pain
- Problems with memory
PLDS does not respond to antibiotics. That’s because there isn’t an active infection anymore. Treatment is aimed at helping to control the symptoms.
Children With Lyme Disease
Children with Lyme disease have special issues. Since they cant always explain what feels wrong, they may just come across as cranky and irritable. They suffer when their bodies hurt, when their illness disrupts their sleep at night, when they struggle in school, when they dont even feel like playing. They may feel confused, lost and betrayed by parents and teachers who fail to recognize that they are sick and need help.
Mothers and fathers may not understand what the childs normal baseline is. Is this the terrible twos or the nine-year-old change or is something really wrong?
Because the symptoms of Lyme disease can be non-specific, vague and changeable, adults may not even realize these children are ill. They may suspect them of making things up to gain attention or to avoid school. Children with Lyme often have trouble in the classroom, because the disease can contribute to learning disabilities and behavioral problems.
Children are especially vulnerable to tick-borne diseases because they are physically low to the ground, where the ticks are. They play in leaves, roll on grass, cuddle with pets and otherwise increase their exposure to ticks.
LymeDisease.org is the publisher of The Lyme Times, a quarterly online magazine available to members. We have two issues that have a wealth of information about children and Lyme disease. Please click on the buttons below to view the Table of Contents of each issue.
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Which Children Are At Risk For Lyme Disease
A child is more at risk for Lyme disease in certain parts of the U.S. during the spring and summer months, when ticks are more active. Ticks live in wooded areas, low-growing grasslands, and yards. A child is more at risk outdoors in these places, or around a pet that has been in these areas.
Lyme has been reported in nearly all states. The most cases have been reported in:
- Northeastern states, such as Massachusetts and Connecticut
- Mid-Atlantic states, such as New Jersey and Pennsylvania
- Wisconsin and Minnesota
Many cases have also been reported in Asia and Europe.
When Would The Signs Or Symptoms Of Lyme Disease Start To Appear
If a human does become infected with Lyme disease, the symptoms usually begin within three days to one month after being bitten by an infected tick.2
Many of the first symptoms also happen with other diseases, which may make it harder to tell if someone has Lyme disease. If you develop any of these symptoms following a tick bite go see your doctor right away. It is important to tell your doctor the geographical location of where you may have been bitten by a tick.1 For example, if you were hiking at Point Pelee National Park, you would let the doctor know this as it is an area where blacklegged ticks and Lyme disease are found. If you saved the tick that bit you bring it to your doctor’s appointment or submit a tick to the Health Unit for identification.
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How Can You Prevent Lyme Disease
Ticks are more prevalent during the warmer months of April through September however, tick bites can occur year-round. If your child is going to spend time outdoors, especially in an area where Lyme disease is common, you should take steps to prevent tick bites.
When heading outside, children should:
- Avoid grassy, brushy or wooded areas
- Treat clothing and shoes with products containing 0.5% permethrin
- Use EPA-registered insect repellents in children under 3 years old)
- Wear long sleeves and pants as well as tall socks
After coming inside, children should:
- Check for ticks within 30 minutes especially under the arms, in the belly button, on the scalp and behind the ears
- Remove any ticks you find on the body and clean the bite with soap and water
- Take a shower after coming in from the outdoors
“Prevention is key,” says Dr. Kahn, “especially if your child is playing outside in endemic areas.”
Achy Stiff Or Swollen Joints
Joint pain and stiffness, often intermittent, are early Lyme symptoms. Your joints may be inflamed, warm to the touch, painful, and swollen. You may have stiffness and limited range of motion in some joints .
Pain may move around. Sometimes your knees may hurt, whereas other times its your neck or your heels. You may also have bursitis . Bursae are the thin cushions between bone and surrounding tissue.
The pain may be severe, and it may be transitory. More than one joint may be affected. Most often the large joints are involved .
People often attribute joint problems to age, genetics, or sports. Lyme should be added to that list, as these statistics indicate:
- One study estimates that 80 percent of people with untreated Lyme have muscle and joint symptoms .
- Fifty percent of people with untreated Lyme have intermittent episodes of arthritis .
- Two-thirds of people have their first episode of joint pain within six months of the infection .
- Use of anti-inflammatory drugs may mask the actual number of people with joint swelling .
Joint pain that comes and goes, or moves from joint to joint, could be a sign of Lyme.
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Stage : Early Localized Disease
Symptoms of Lyme disease usually start 1 to 2 weeks after the tick bite. One of the earliest signs of the disease is a bulls-eye rash.
The rash occurs at the site of the tick bite, usually, but not always, as a central red spot surrounded by a clear spot with an area of redness at the edge. It may be warm to the touch, but it isnt painful and doesnt itch. This rash will gradually fade in most people.
The formal name for this rash is erythema migrans. Erythema migrans is said to be characteristic of Lyme disease. However, many people dont have this symptom.
Some people have a rash thats solid red, while people with dark complexions may have a rash that resembles a bruise.
The rash can occur with or without systemic viral or flu-like symptoms.
Other symptoms commonly seen in this stage of Lyme disease include:
What Should I Do If I Find A Tick On My Child
If you find a tick on your child, you should remove it right away. And to do this, all you need is a pair of tweezers.
Dont try alternative remedies to remove a tick. Things like petroleum jelly or a match wont necessarily work. In fact, they could cause the tick to crawl deeper into the skin.
Pulling the tick out with tweezers is the best way to remove it.
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Stage : Late Disseminated Lyme Disease
Late disseminated Lyme disease occurs when the infection hasnt been treated in stages 1 and 2. Stage 3 can occur months or years after the tick bite.
This stage is characterized by:
- arthritis of one or more large joints
- brain disorders, such as encephalopathy, which can cause short-term memory loss, difficulty concentrating, mental fogginess, problems with following conversations and sleep disturbance
- numbness in the arms, legs, hands, or feet
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What If A Tick Bites My Dog
The more ticks in your region, the likelier it is that your furry pal will bring them home.
Your dog is much more likely to be bitten by a tick than you are. And where Lyme disease is common, up to 25% of dogs have had it at some point.
About 10% of dogs with Lyme disease will get sick. 7-21 days after a tick bite, your dog might seem like theyâre walking on eggshells. They also might have a fever and enlarged lymph nodes. Plus, they might seem tired. Dogs also get antibiotics for Lyme.
What if my dog brings ticks into my home?
Use a tick control product on your pet to prevent Lyme disease. Also, have your dog vaccinated against Lyme.
Check your dogâs whole body each day for bumps. If you notice a swollen area, see if thereâs a tick there. If you find a tick, wear gloves while you use tweezers to separate it from your dog. Then, put it in soapy water or alcohol, or flush it down the toilet.
Use alcohol to clean the spot on your dog where the tick was attached. Keep an eye on that spot, and also on your dog to make sure theyâre behaving normally. If you notice any changes, check with your vet.
John Aucott, MD, assistant professor of medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine director, Johns Hopkins Lyme Disease Clinical Research Center.
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report: âVital Signs: Trends in Reported Vectorborne Disease Cases — United States and Territories, 2004-2016.â
American College of Rheumatology.
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