Lyme Disease Symptoms in Children – How to know if your Child has been Exposed?

what are the symptoms of lyme disease in childrenAs a parent, it is extremely important to be aware of what the symptoms of Lyme disease are in children as they are more susceptible than adults to contracting the disease.

Statistics show that the most commonly reported cases of Lyme diseases involve children between the ages of 5-9 and older adults between the ages of 55-59 years old [1].

With the number of reported Lyme disease cases on the rise, the importance of being aware and knowing what symptoms to look for is even greater.

Why You Should be Concerned with Lyme Disease as a Parent:

Lyme disease is an infection caused by bacterium passed from ticks to humans through a bite. The bacterium, Borrelia Burgdorferi, slowly spreads throughout the entire body. It has many symptoms and side-effects that can be life altering, especially in young children or when the disease is left untreated. However, when Lyme disease is diagnosed in a timely manner, it is very much treatable with antibiotic and natural therapies.

As a tickborne illness, Lyme disease can be passed on to a carrier when bitten by an infected tick. While you may not encounter ticks in your area, that often doesn’t mean that they aren’t present. They tend to be more common in areas with high grass, wooded areas, along hiking trails and in forests but can certainly be found anywhere outdoors. Even if children don’t frequent these areas, they may still be at risk.

For example, the family pet can easily play host to ticks and enter the home where they can detach and go on to bite you or your children.

Tick bites can be painless, leaving the carrier unaware that they have been bitten.

Ticks can stay attached for some time, but also pose the risk of detaching without making the carrier aware of their presence. In these cases, it is important to be aware of the symptoms of Lyme disease in children, just in case.

What are the Lyme disease Symptoms in Children?

Some of the main questions surrounding Lyme disease and children include; “What are the symptoms of Lyme disease in Children?” and “Are the symptoms the same for children as adults?”

The symptoms of Lyme disease in adults is most often the same as Lyme disease symptoms in children. However, they may be harder to detect in children as they aren’t always your typical cold-like symptoms. Also, children often find it difficult to explain what they are feeling, especially when the symptoms come and go.

It is important to be aware that so called ‘developmental changes’ in an adolescent may be blamed for the child’s sudden mood behavior, while an autism diagnosis may be displaying neurological symptoms of Lyme disease.

Neurological symptoms reportedly develop in around 10-20% of children with borreliosis [2]. A study conducted at Columbia University showed that children infected with Lyme displayed psychiatric and cognitive troubles, with long term these disturbances being the culprits for academic and psychosocial decline [3].

Lyme disease symptoms in children often appear between 3-30 days from the time of exposure [4].

lyme disease in children

The most frequently reported first noticeable symptom is that of a rash. Erythema Migrans  (EM), commonly referred to as a bull’s eye rash, can present itself anytime after being bitten by a tick carrying Lyme disease, but is most often found within 7-14 days [4].

EM is easily mistaken for an insect bite, eczema, or hives. It will likely not be raised, not be painful, and could easily go ignored or undiagnosed. The rash may begin to spread or multiply over a time span of months if it goes untreated. But there have also been cases where the rash was evident for only a couple of minutes and then disappeared.

Aside from a visible rash, most of the symptoms of Lyme disease in children are just as hard to pin-point as they are in adults.

Within the first two weeks of infection you may begin to notice flu like symptoms in your child. This can include:

  • Fever;
  • Chills;
  • Headache;
  • Stiffness;
  • Muscle aches;
  • Joint pains;
  • Fatigue;
  • Decreased appetite;
  • Swollen glands; and
  • Sore throat.

While all of these symptoms would often point towards the flu or a common cold, if your child has been at risk for exposure or you have removed a tick from them, medical care should be sought as soon as possible to begin antibiotic treatment. Lab testing may be required to confirm the presence of Lyme disease.

When left undiagnosed or without treatment, the bacteria will eventually enter your child’s blood stream.

It may then continue to spread through the body and could result in long term or chronic symptoms, possibly for years to come.

At this point of illness, the symptoms can include all the previously mentioned symptoms, along with:

  • Facial Nerve Palsy;
  • Meningitis;
  • Inflammation of the heart; and
  • Further joint and muscle pain.

The long-term effects of untreated Lyme disease can include:

  • Chronic arthritis;
  • Neurological problems;
  • Numbness in arms and legs;
  • Impaired muscle function;
  • Memory loss;
  • Difficulty concentrating; and
  • Irregular sleep patterns.

To read more about the various stages of Lyme disease, read our article on “What Are Lyme Disease Symptoms” here:

How to Protect Children against Lyme Disease?

The best thing that you can do as a parent to prevent Lyme disease, is to employ as many preventative measures as you can, especially when children will be outdoors and at a much higher risk of exposure. Tick avoidance has long been the best approach to preventing Lyme disease [5].

Also, being aware of what the Lyme disease Symptoms are in children so that you can be vigilant in recognizing them as soon as possible if you are concerned about exposure.

Some of the top preventative measures that you can use, include:

lyme disease symptoms in children

  • Avoid tick-infested areas.
  • Be sure to use an insect repellent on children anytime that they will be outdoors.
  • Where ticks are known to occur, make sure your child is wearing protective clothing (e.g. shirt tucked into pants and pants tucked into socks).
  • In the case of camping, hiking or any outdoor activity with a higher exposure to wooded areas with ticks, consider pre-treating clothing and gear with repellent.
  • Help children check head to toe upon coming inside. This includes hair, body, and clothes for any stow-away ticks.
  • Treat family pets with a prescription tick guard or other vet recommended method.

Compared to adults, children and pets are naturally more susceptible to ticks, because they are frequently an easier target.

For example, children play in leaves, roll in the grass, snuggle with family pets, and are less likely to notice a tick bite or the symptoms that could come along with it.

Being vigilant as a parent is the best way to prevent Lyme disease and other tickborne illnesses from entering your home. If you do find a tick in your home or on your child, don’t panic. The chances of contracting Lyme disease vary depending on how long the tick was attached and whether it is in fact infected or not. The risk of contracting Lyme disease increases with longer tick attachment time [6].

Even if a tick is carrying the Lyme disease causing bacteria, if it is removed from your child within the first 24 hours, the chances of contracting the disease are rare.

The chances of contracting the disease from an infected tick bite increase between the 24-48 hour mark, with nearly a 100% chance as you reach the 62-hour mark.

In the event that you did locate and remove a tick and are concerned, knowing what the symptoms of Lyme disease are in children will keep you well prepared to contact your family physician if any symptoms present themselves.

We recommend that you bookmark or print this page, so that you have it on hand if needed.









Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Lyme Disease Advice or its staff.

Share the Knowledge:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *