Lyme disease is caused by bacteria that are spread to people by tick bites. The ticks that carry the bacteria are:
Not all ticks carry the Lyme disease bacteria. Depending on the location, less than 1 in 100 to more than half of ticks in that area may be infected with Lyme.
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:
Many cases have also been reported in Asia and Europe.
Symptoms can occur a bit differently in each child. They usually appear within 3 to 30 days after a tick bite. Lyme disease has early and late-stage symptoms. Early stage Lyme disease is more easily cured with antibiotics than late-stage disease. Most cases of late-stage disease occur when if early stage disease is not treated.
One of the most common symptoms is a ring-shaped rash that looks like a bull's-eye. It may be pink in the center and have a darker red ring around it. The rash does not occur in every case of Lyme. If it does occur, the rash may:
Several days or weeks after a bite from an infected tick, your child may have flu-like symptoms such as:
Weeks to months after the bite, these symptoms may develop:
Months to a few years after a bite, these symptoms may occur:
The symptoms of Lyme disease can be like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
The healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and health history. He or she will ask about recent tick bites. He or she will give your child a physical exam.
Lyme may be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms are like other conditions. The main symptom is often a rash, but more than 1 in 5 people infected with Lyme don’t have the rash. Diagnosis is usually based on symptoms and a history of a tick bite. Your child may have blood tests to help diagnose Lyme, and to check for other illnesses that can cause similar symptoms. Researchers are working on more ways to diagnose Lyme.
Lyme disease is usually treated with antibiotic medicine. Early stage Lyme disease is more easily cured with antibiotics than late-stage disease. Your child’s healthcare provider will discuss the best treatment plan with you based on:
Talk with your child’s healthcare providers about the risks, benefits, and possible side effects of all medicines.
Some children may develop post-Lyme disease syndrome (PLDS). This means that some symptoms last longer than 6 months. Symptoms can include:
There is no vaccine for Lyme disease. A child who has had the disease doesn’t build up immunity and can get it again. But you can help prevent Lyme disease by protecting your child from tick bites.
Ticks can’t bite through clothing, so dress your child and family in:
Choose light-colored clothing so that ticks can be easily seen. Check your child often for ticks, including:
Run fingers gently over the skin. Run a fine-toothed comb through your child's hair to check for ticks.
Other helpful tips include:
Use insect repellents safely. The most common used against ticks are:
Check your pets for ticks. Talk with your pet’s veterinarian about tick repellent medicine.
Call the healthcare provider if your child has:
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
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