Lyme Disease

General Overview:

Lyme disease is an illness carried by some ticks and transmitted to people when ticks attached to the skin for an extended period of time.  Lyme disease is diagnosed sometimes based on symptoms and sometimes using a laboratory test.  It is treated with antibiotics.

Transmission:

For a tick to transmit Lyme disease it must attach to a person’s skin and feed for 36-48 hours or longer.  Keep in mind that just because you suspect a tick has been attached for more than 36 hours does not mean that Lyme disease was transmitted or that the tick even carried Lyme disease.  There is no evidence of Lyme disease transmission in any other way than described above.

Signs/Symptoms:

There are many different possible signs and symptoms of Lyme disease.

Early Symptoms:

  • Bulls-eye Rash (Erythema Migrans) – within 1 month after exposure a rash at the site of the tick bite develops in 70-80% of people.The rash is usually flat, red, looks like a bulls-eye and is not itchy or painful.

  • Other – Some people with Lyme disease also develop fever, headache, joint or muscle aches, fatigue and/or swollen lymph nodes within the first month after exposure

Late Symptoms:

  • If untreated, symptoms of Lyme disease may become more severe

Diagnosis:

Lyme disease is often diagnosed based on the classic “bulls-eye” rash.  If a patient does not develop a rash and has not had a known tick bite in the past few months a blood test is necessary to determine the diagnosis.  Blood tests immediately after a tick bite or in the absence of symptoms are not helpful in determining if a child has Lyme Disease.

Prophylaxis:

There is no indication at all for preventative antibiotics after a tick bite in children under 8 years old, as the only medication used for this purpose is not approved for children in this age group.

Preventative antibiotics for children 8 and over are very rarely indicated as the benefit in most cases is very small.

Treatment:

In most cases, Lyme Disease is very easily treated.  The overwhelming majority of stories told about people with long-term symptoms of Lyme Disease or of “chronic Lyme Disease” are actually caused by other entities entirely and not related to Lyme Disease or tick bites,

Takeaway Message:

The most common tick-borne illness on the East Coast is Lyme Disease. While not all ticks carry  Lyme Disease and not all tick exposures lead to Lyme Disease, it is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of the disease in order to receive proper treatment.

When to Call:

Call our office if believe your child has been exposed to Lyme Disease or has active Lyme Disease.  There is a lot of false information about ticks and Lyme Disease, Call our office with any questions or concerns.

Additional Information:

Additional information on Lyme Disease is available from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.