Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is an illness caused by the Borellia Burgdorfi bacterium 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.


For a tick to transmit Lyme disease it must attach to a person’s skin for 36-48 hours or longer.  Not all tick carry or cause Lyme disease.  There is no evidence of Lyme disease transmission in any other way than described above.


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

  • Early symptoms (within 30 days of a bite)
    • Bulls-eye Rash (Erythema Migrans) – this is a flat, red, circular "bulls eye" rash that be clear in the center.  It may vary in size, but is not itchy or painful.
    • Flu-like symptoms - fever, headache, joint or muscle aches, fatigue and/or swollen lymph nodes within the first month after exposure
  • Late symptoms
    • If the infection spreads to other parts of the body, your child may experience additional symptoms.
      • severe headache and neck stiffness
      • arthritis, particularly in the knees
      • drooping of one side of the face
      • irregular heart beat
      • eye inflammation


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 earlier than 2 weeks after a tick bite or in the absence of symptoms are not helpful in determining if a child has Lyme Disease.


The use of an antibiotic for the prevention of Lyme disease after a tick bite is available, but is only effective if the patient meets a specific set of criteria.  Please contact your child’s doctor to discuss this.  For more information click here.


In most cases, Lyme Disease is very easily treated with a course of antibiotics. If symptoms have not completely resolved, occasionally a second course of antibiotics is needed and if symptoms persist, an alternate diagnosis needs to be considered.

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 you 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