When The Tick Bites: Lyme Disease In Children

April 28, 2023

The benefits of your child playing outside are endless. Outdoor play helps to advance your child’s motor skills, improve muscle strength, increase positive behavior, and foster independence. When your child is frolicking through wooded areas and low-growing grasslands, receiving all the benefits of the great outdoors, it is important you check them for pesky bugs that pose a risk to their health, such as ticks. Some ticks carry Lyme disease, which is a bacteria that can cause short or long-term symptoms in your child. 

Lyme Disease In Children

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Lyme disease is caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. This bacteria is transmitted to humans through the bite of black-legged ticks. Here at Holly Springs Pediatrics, we encourage all children to play outdoors. With that comes the responsibility to be educated about Lyme and ways to prevent it. 

What Are The Early Symptoms Of Lyme Disease?

It is important to remember that only a small number of ticks are infected with Lyme disease. With that said, if you find a tick on your child, it does not automatically mean they will contract this disease. Additionally, an infected tick must be attached for at least 24 to 48 hours to pass the bacteria. The early symptoms of Lyme may include:

  • A bulls-eye rash at the site of the tick bite
  • A fever
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches or joint pain 

If Lyme is left untreated, more advanced symptoms can occur, such as slow or irregular heartbeat, numbness in arms or legs, mood changes, neck stiffness, and more. 

How Is Lyme Disease Diagnosed And Treated?

Lyme disease is diagnosed through symptoms, physical findings on the body, and the likelihood of being exposed to an infected tick. Blood tests may also help in diagnosis but may only show up weeks after infection. Early detection and diagnosis of Lyme disease are important, as a short course of oral antibiotics can cure a majority of cases. However, Lyme that is left untreated may cause more severe symptoms and result in post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome. An estimated 5% to 15% of those diagnosed may experience lingering fatigue, achiness, or headaches even after proper treatment.  

What Are The Possible Complications?

In some cases, Lyme can cause serious complications, such as neurological Lyme disease. This occurs when the bacteria from the tick affects the peripheral nervous system. This may include:

  • Cranial nerve involvement
  • Peripheral nerve involvement
  • Central nervous system involvement

The symptoms associated with neurological complications may include numbness, pain, weakness, facial palsy, visual disturbances, and meningitis-like symptoms. If your child experiences any of these symptoms, it is crucial to contact their healthcare provider immediately. 

How Can I Help Prevent Lyme Disease?

Preventing Lyme disease in children requires paying close attention to your child’s whereabouts, along with a close examination of their body. Some ways to prevent this disease include 

  • Using insect repellent
  • Wearing closed toes shoes, long sleeve shirts, and pants
  • Body examination after being in the woods or areas with tall grass
  • Wearing light-colored clothing
  • Walking in the middle of paths or trails

Additionally, to prevent Lyme, it is important to know where black-legged ticks are highest in presence. In the United States, they are common in the northeast,  the mid-Atlantic states, the north-central states, and northern California.

When you are equipped to observe common Lyme symptoms in children, it can give you peace of mind. Preparation and education is the key to making sure your child is safe and healthy. Do you think your child could be displaying symptoms of Lyme disease? Request an appointment through our website or give us a call at (919) 249-4700.