Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that 300,000 Americans are diagnosed with Lyme disease annually, with 25% being children. The age group with the highest odds of getting Lyme disease is children between five and nine. Another high-risk group is boys between five and nineteen.
What is Lyme Disease?
Black-legged or deer ticks have three stages of life before dying. They attach to warm-blooded animals or humans in each stage because they must feed on blood to survive. They typically adhere to small animals in the first stage, such as rabbits, moles, and raccoons. In the second stage, they attach to bigger animals, including deer.
Ticks live on the ground, in high grass, and on the blades of grass. As an animal or human walks by them, they attach themselves.
If they attach to an animal that has Lyme disease, the tick will consume the Lyme bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, that causes Lyme disease. If the infected tick later attaches to and feeds on human blood, it will transmit Lyme disease to the person. The longer Lyme disease goes untreated, the Lyme bacteria multiply and spread, worsening symptoms.
How Children Get Lyme Disease
Aside from being closer to the ground and closer to ticks, children contract Lyme disease in various ways, primarily by doing things that are encouraged in children, teens, and young adults, such as:
- Playing outdoors
- Rolling around on the ground
- Playing with pets or farm animals that have ticks
- Living in an area where ticks are more prevalent
- Hiking in wooded areas
- Doing yardwork
- Camping in wooded areas
- Fishing on the banks of a water source
- Farming or outdoor labor
When a child gets Lyme disease and goes untreated, it can negatively impact their life.
The Impact of Lyme Disease Symptoms on Kids
While every kid will have a different experience with Lyme disease, common symptoms impact them at school, at home, and socially.
Kids are expected to attend school for at least seven hours a day, five days a week, for ten months out of the year. Also, they have extra-curricular activities and homework. Lyme disease symptoms interfere with school performance. For example:
- Headaches make it hard to concentrate and focus
- Flu-like symptoms cause absences
- Fatigue can lead to falling asleep in class, tardies, and absences
- Mood changes cause erratic behaviors
- Cognitive difficulties affect memory and learning
A kid’s personal life involves best friends, family members, and other loved ones. Lyme disease can affect all those relationships due to the below symptoms:
- Personality changes
- Feeling too depressed or anxious to be around others
- Being unable to have fun due to pain
- Feeling too tired to spend time with others
Lyme disease can also affect how kids perceive themselves and lower self-esteem. Lyme disease symptoms can frighten anyone, not just a child. However, kids who try hard to fit in and belong to a peer group may fear being ostracized. Examples include:
- Facial paralysis
- Inflammation of the brain or spinal cord (meningitis)
- Rashes in various places on the body
- Muscle ticks and twitches
- Trouble having conversations due to delayed cognitive abilities
Kids want to participate in social activities with friends. They want to attend birthday parties, watch a movie, date, go to the prom, cheer on the high school football team, and more. Lyme disease interferes with the social calendar of kids when the following symptoms appear:
- Bright lights, like the sun, cause visual pain and make it hard to do things outdoors
- Arthritis and shortness of breath make it challenging to participate in sports, crafting, playing musical instruments, and learning new skills
- Social anxiety prevents them from attending social events
Testing and Diagnosing Kids for Lyme Disease
Primary doctors use the recommended two-step testing process that begins with the ELISA, which tests for Lyme antibodies. If the result is positive, a second test, the Western Blot, is performed to confirm the first test. If the ELISA results are negative, no further testing is performed.
The problem with these tests is that they are often inaccurate because Lyme antibodies are not always active. You can have Lyme, and if a test is given when antibodies are inactive, your results will be negative.
Work with a Lyme-literate doctor who combines a comprehensive evaluation and performs blood, platelets, and spinal fluid analysis to receive the most accurate results.
Treatment for kids with Lyme disease typically requires strong antibiotics for at least two weeks. Unfortunately, oral antibiotics are not always effective. Lyme-literate doctors provide alternative treatments, including intravenous antibiotic therapy, therapeutic apheresis, vitamin therapy, and lifestyle changes.
Lifestyle changes include the people, places, and things you encounter daily that may promote your kid’s Lyme disease symptoms. For example, being bullied, having family fights, eating junk food, playing video games for long hours, and not getting at least eight hours of quality sleep.
Replacing poor lifestyle habits with positive ones will make a big difference in how Lyme symptoms impact a child.
What Parents Can Do
As a parent, you must prioritize your child’s Lyme disease. Start by educating your child, at their learning level, about Lyme disease, why they have it, how it is treated, and how they can improve it. Helping them understand Lyme disease will make it seem less scary.
Preventing Lyme disease is crucial since you can get it more than once. Prevention includes wearing appropriate clothing and insect repellent, avoiding tall grasses and wooded areas when possible, and conducting tick checks on your kids and pets.
Another good tip for managing Lyme disease is to find the best Lyme-literate doctor. Consider qualifications over the location. If you must travel to Mexico to see the best specialist, like the ones at Lyme Mexico, do it. Your child will benefit from being diagnosed and treated quicker and with the most advanced equipment.
Call our Lyme-literate doctor today for a consultation. Your child deserves the best.