Protect Your Kids From The Dreaded Lyme Disease This Summer

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GENETIC ALLIANCE BY CLAIRE MENA

Whether playing around in the background or going on outdoor outings, don’t forget to keep an eye out for ticks!

As the school year comes to an end and summer activities quickly approach, each family will have their own plans for their kids for the next few months. Whether it is summer camp, outdoor activities, or recreational sports, children will have the time to grow and develop, and most important, to just be a kid. While enjoying their summer fun playing in the woods, going on hikes, or even just running around within the confines of the backyard, there is one thing that parents should be prepared for: Lyme disease.

Lyme is a multisystem inflammatory disease that is transmitted to humans and pets through the bite of a deer tick. It is commonly associated with a characteristic local bulls-eye rash, but symptoms can eventually spread throughout the body to the joints, nervous systems, and other organs. By equipping themselves with the proper knowledge and tools prior to summer activities, parents can be well prepared to protect their children.

Lyme disease infected ticks typically reside in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Midwest, as well as on the Pacific Coast in northern California and Oregon. If living in or planning on visiting one of these regions, learn more about Lyme disease below:

Upon returning from the outdoors, children should bathe as soon as possible to wash off any ticks lingering around on their body. Parents should check the crevices of the body where ticks tend to hide such as the belly button, behind the knees and in the hair. Then, tumble dry clothes on high heat in a dryer for 10 minutes to kill off any ticks  remaining on the clothing.

Soon enough kids will be out of school and ready to enjoy their summer. Whether playing around in the background or going on outdoor outings, don’t forget to keep an eye out for ticks!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Claire Mena is an Engagement and Outreach Specialist at Genetic Alliance. She previously worked in breaking news and now focuses on the relationship between health care and enhancing patient-centered information. You can find her @clairemelise


ONE TICK CAN MAKE YOU SICK

1. LYME DISEASE IS CAUSED BY BACTERIA.
While we typically associate Lyme Disease (LD) with its carrier, deer ticks (Ixodes scauplaris), the disease itself is caused by a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi.

2. FEEDING DURATION IMPACTS DISEASE TRANSMISSION.
The amount of a time a tick remains attached to the body can impact the ability of the disease to cause an infection. Typically, infections occur when the tick has been latched on for at least 36 hours.

3. BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR SYMPTOMS
When kids are outdoors in regions where Lyme disease is prevalent, be sure to keep an eye out for tick bites and any new symptoms. LD is often difficult to detect, but with early diagnosis and treatment, there is a significantly greater likelihood of a full recovery. Early symptoms to look for include: a circular rash, fever, chills, headaches, muscle and joint pain, swollen lymph nodes, and fatigue.

4. A RASH ISN’T ALWAYS PRESENT
A rash surrounding the tick bite is commonly the first symptom that parents may notice, but it is possible for your child to have an infection without displaying the characteristic rash.

5. IF THERE IS A RASH…
It will tend to appear in a circular pattern like a “bulls-eye” spanning about five to six inches in diameter. Generally, the rash is not painful or itchy, but it can feel as though it is radiating heat. After the first initial rash, other rashes may begin to appear on the body and last around three to six weeks.

6. ANTIBIOTICS IS THE BEST FORM OF TREATMENT.
Providers usually recommend a 21-day course of antibiotics which in most patients alleviates symptoms and clears the infection from the body.

7. IF LEFT UNTREATED THERE CAN BE MAJOR COMPLICATIONS.
If the infection continues to be left untreated for weeks to months after the initial tick bite, more severe symptoms may occur as the infection spreads throughout the body.
These include:
• Severe headaches
• Stiff neck, additional rashes
• Loss of muscle tone on the sides of the face (facial palsy)
• Heart palpitations or irregular heartbeat
• Dizziness or shortness of breath
• Pain in tendons, muscles, joints or bones
• Inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, tingling, numbness or shooting pain in the hands and feet
• Nerve pain
• Short term memory loss

8. FORTUNATELY, THERE ARE PREVENTATIVE MEASURES YOU CAN TAKE.
Before children are going outside to play, the CDC recommends using repellent that contains at least 20 percent or higher of DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 on any skin that will be exposed. For extra protection, the CDC recommends spraying clothing and outdoor gear with products containing 0.5 percent permethrin. Additionally, pre-treated clothing to repel bugs is available for purchase in many outdoor stores. To decide which type of repellent is best for your family, the EPA provides guidance at www.epa.gov/insect-repellents/find-insect-repellent-right-you

9. AND DON’T FORGET TO SEARCH FOR TICKS!


GENETIC ALLIANCE
The world’s leading nonprofit health advocacy organization committed to transforming health through genetics and promoting an environment of openness centered on the health of individuals, families, and communities.