Lyme disease is a serious infection transmitted by the deer tick and caused by a germ known as a spirochete by the name of Borrelia burgdorferi.  Although the deer tick may be found in many places in the United States, it I most commonly encountered in the southern New England and eastern Mid-Atlantic States. Infection occurs more frequently between the months of April and October. The disease has three distinct phases, the first being localized to the bite of the tick, the second when the effects of the infections spreads and the third called the late stage.  Each stage has its own characteristic set of symptoms.

Symptoms:

Early localized stage:

  • Red rash, flat or slightly raised, at the site of a tick bite.
  • Rash spreads to assume a ring form that may be as big as 5 cm.  (2-3 inches) in diameter.
  • Center of the ring may actually clear.
  • The rash does not itch and it does not hurt.

Disseminated or spreading phase:

  • Rash, similar to the one described, spreads to other parts of the body.
  • Palsies or temporary paralysis of nerves affecting facial muscles may occur.
  • Joint pains, muscle aches, headaches and tiredness are common.

Late Stage:

  • If properly treated, this stage is rarely seen in children.
  • Arthritis, especially of the knees.
  • Nervous system disorders that may include encephalitis.

Call the Doctor if:

  • A rash associated with a known tick bite occurs.
  • Symptoms, especially rashes, occur after being in areas of known tick infestation.
  • Any un-explained illness, especially one accompanied by fever, rash and headaches.

Lyme Disease is a very serious infection. Complications of this illness are usually successfully prevented if treatment with specific antibiotics, prescribed after an accurate diagnosis, is begun. If you live in an area where ticks of any kind are likely to be encountered, check your children before putting them to bed at night for the presence of a tick or suspected tick bite. Remove ticks by gently pulling on their body with tweezers. Do not use finger nail polish, or a lighted match to attempt removal. They don’t work and may actually cause more of the germs the tick carries to be injected into the skin. Ticks that are not engorged, that is they have not been present long enough to have ingested much blood, are less likely to have produced any infection. The incubation period for Lyme disease varies from 1 to 55 days from the time of bite.

Fortunately, this disease is not too frequent and cannot be transmitted from one child to the next.  And even though ticks may be encountered in woods and on trail hikes and camping trips, don’t avoid those opportunities to add enjoyment and healthy living to your family’s agenda!