The bacterial infection known as Lyme disease is on the rise. And as winter temperatures begin to turn mild and kids are excited to get outside and have some fun, there are likely to be new cases reported.
Parents must educate themselves on Lyme disease.
What is it? Who is at risk? How can you tell if your child has Lyme disease? We have everything you need to know to keep your kids safe.
What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is an infection that is caused by a bacteria that is spread to humans through tick bites — primarily the black-legged deer tick and the Western black-legged tick. If bitten, both children and adults can experience short-term and long-term symptoms.
Preventing Lyme Disease
Lyme disease has been reported throughout the United States. This means it can be found anywhere. However, it appears to be most prevalent in the upper Midwest, Northwest, and the Northeast with the greatest risk being during the late spring and early summer. Ticks tend to be most active during this time.
The good news is that there are steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of getting bit by a tick.
- Wear high socks and pants if you are going to be in the woods or high grassy areas.
- Wear light-colored clothing to make it easier to visibly see ticks.
- When outdoors, spray kids with insect repellent containing DEET. Just be careful to avoid their hands and face.
When your kids come in from being outdoors, check them over slowly and carefully for ticks. Have them bathe — and then check them again. Be sure to look at their ankles, behind the knees, under the arms, inside the belly button, their groin area, and even behind the ears! Ticks like to nestle themselves where they are least likely to be spotted, so thoroughness is key.
Finally, toss their clothes in the dryer on high heat for about 10 minutes to kill anything that may have come in with your kids.
Signs and Symptoms of Lyme Disease
It does not matter how careful you are, ticks can be sneaky. And, when they bite, there is a risk of Lyme disease. Here are a few signs and symptoms you should look out for:
- A circle-shaped rash that grows over time — usually discovered within a week of a tick bite
- Low fever, chills
- Muscle and joint aches
- Difficulty concentrating
- Lack of appetite
Keep in mind that little ones may be cranky and irritable, unable to specify how they feel if they just don’t feel good.
If symptoms are not addressed, they can progress, leading to:
- Nervous system symptoms, such as Bell palsy
- Heart rate concerns
- Numbness or tingling in limbs
- Difficulty with speech
- Cognitive issues
Treatment for Lyme Disease
Is there a cure for Lyme disease?
Oral antibiotics can effectively fight the bacteria that cause the illness, but it may take a couple of weeks — and some symptoms can last well after the course of antibiotics has been completed.
If you notice any of the above symptoms, contact your child’s pediatrician right away. The sooner the medication can be taken, the better.
Finally, if you notice that your child has been bitten by a tick, don’t wait for symptoms to show up to seek treatment. Contact your pediatrician immediately to reduce the risk of Lyme disease.
Advocare Haddon Pediatric Group is a highly experienced team of pediatricians serving patients from birth through college. They have been an established leader in pediatrics for decades in the Haddon Heights and Mullica Hill areas of New Jersey.