Up to 300,000 new cases of Lyme disease are diagnosed in the United States each year. Lyme disease can be resolved quickly when prompt treatment is administered, but if it’s not detected or allowed to linger, it can spread to your joints, heart, and nervous system.
Lyme disease begins when you’re bitten by a tick infected with the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. Kids are especially vulnerable as they tend to be out and about in the great outdoors, where ticks thrive.
If you suspect your child has been exposed to a tick or you find one on their body, consult First Pediatric Care Center in Gastonia, North Carolina. Our pediatrician, Margaret Lubega, MD, can assess your child’s risk for developing Lyme disease.
Ticks and Lyme disease
The type of ticks that carry Lyme disease, called deer ticks, have been detected in all 50 states. Ticks are prevalent in wooded areas and attach to just about any part of your body. They’re particularly likely to hook on in hard-to-see areas like your scalp, armpits, and groin. For a tick to spread Lyme disease to your child, it must be attached for 36-48 hours.
If your child has been camping, hiking, or hanging out in a grassy park, it’s important to inspect them for ticks. If you detect one, use tweezers to grab the tick’s head and pull it straight out of your child’s skin. Rinse the area with rubbing alcohol and save the tick in a container, if you can, so Dr. Lubega can evaluate its type and likelihood of carrying Lyme disease.
When to suspect Lyme disease
Even if you don’t find a tick on your child’s body, they may have been exposed to a tick when out camping or playing in the backyard.
Early symptoms of Lyme disease start between 3 to 30 days after an infected tick bites you. The symptoms can include:
- A red rash that looks like a bull’s eye
- Fever and chills
- Fatigue and muscle or joint aches
- Swollen lymph nodes
The rash isn’t typically itchy, but it grows bigger over several days and is sometimes warm to the touch.
If your child exhibits any of these symptoms, it’s best to bring them to First Pediatric Care Center for an evaluation. Without prompt treatment, Lyme disease can lead to long-term health challenges, including pain in your muscles, connective tissue, and bones, as well as severe headaches, arthritis, irregular heartbeat, dizziness, and nerve pain.
Lyme disease diagnosis and treatment
Dr. Lubega bases her diagnosis on your child’s symptoms, the likelihood they were exposed to a deer tick, and blood tests. She’ll rule out other possible reasons for symptoms.
If Lyme disease is suspected, antibiotics are prescribed to wipe out the bacterial infection. In most cases, early treatment successfully restores your child’s health.
Lyme disease prevention
You can take steps to help your child avoid an infected tick bite. If you can, have them avoid deep wooded areas or high grass and brush. If they do go hiking, remind them to stay on the trails. You’ll further protect them by using an insect repellent with DEET.
Send them out in light-colored clothing so you can easily spot ticks, and encourage them to wear long sleeves and long pants. Tuck everything in – shirt into pants and pants into socks.
And, if your child has been outside, check them thoroughly for ticks. It’s best to check pets if they were out, too. Have your child shower after being outdoors. Drying their clothes at a high temperature kills any that may have hitchhiked into your home.
If you’re concerned your child has been exposed to a tick or that they’re showing symptoms of Lyme disease, call First Pediatric Care Center right away for an evaluation.