Lyme disease is a bacterial infection spread by ticks.
Antibiotics can treat Lyme disease. If you do not treat your child's Lyme disease, it can lead to problems with the skin, joints, heart, and nervous system. These problems can develop weeks, months, or even years after your child gets the infection.
Your child may be prescribed antibiotics even if it isn't yet certain that your child has Lyme disease.
Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.
How can you care for your child at home?
- Give your child antibiotics as directed. Do not stop using them just because your child feels better. Your child needs to take the full course of antibiotics.
- Ask the doctor if you can give your child an over-the-counter pain medicine if needed, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). Read and follow all instructions on the label. No one younger than 20 should take aspirin. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
- Do not give your child two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
To prevent Lyme disease in the future
- Avoid ticks:
- Learn where ticks are found in your community, and keep your child away from those areas if possible.
- Cover as much of your child's body as possible when they play in grassy or wooded areas. Keep in mind that it is easier to see ticks on light-colored clothes.
- Use insect repellents, such as products containing DEET. If your child is older than 2 months, you can spray the repellents on your child's skin.
- Use products that contain 0.5% permethrin on your child's clothing and outdoor gear, such as their tent. You can also buy clothing already treated with permethrin.
- Take steps to control ticks on your property if you live in an area where Lyme disease occurs. Clear leaves, brush, tall grasses, woodpiles, and stone fences from around your house and the edges of your yard or garden. This may help get rid of ticks.
- After being outdoors, check for ticks on your child's body, including the groin, head, and underarms. The ticks may be about the size of a poppy seed. If you are having a hard time checking for ticks on your child's scalp, comb your child's hair with a fine-tooth comb.
- If you find a tick, remove it quickly. Use tweezers to grasp the tick as close to its mouth (the part in your child's skin) as possible. Slowly pull the tick straight out—do not twist or yank—until its mouth releases from your child's skin. If part of the tick stays in the skin, leave it alone. It will likely come out on its own in a few days.
- Ticks can come into your house on clothing, outdoor gear, and pets. These ticks can fall off and attach to you and your child.
- Check your child's clothing and outdoor gear. Remove any ticks you find. Then put your child's clothing in a clothes dryer on high heat for about 4 minutes to kill any ticks that might remain.
- Check your pets for ticks after they have been outdoors.
When should you call for help?
Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:
- Your child is confused or cannot think clearly.
- Your child has a headache or stiff neck.
- Your child has a new or worse rash.
- Your child has signs of infection, such as:
- Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
- Red streaks leading from the area.
- Pus draining from the area.
- A fever.
Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:
- Your child has new or worse weakness or muscle pain.
- Your child has new joint pain.
- Your child does not get better as expected.
Where can you learn more?
Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd
Enter T560 in the search box to learn more about "Lyme Disease in Children: Care Instructions".
Current as of: October 31, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Susan C. Kim MD - Pediatrics & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & W. David Colby IV MSc, MD, FRCPC - Infectious Disease