Health and Safety

Ticks and Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is an infection caused by a tick bite. If left untreated it can lead to problems with the skin, heart, brain and joints. Tori Gennaro, a pediatric nurse practitioner at Children’s of Alabama, says it’s important for parents to be on the lookout for ticks and the symptoms of Lyme disease in their child.

The good news is, not all tick bites cause Lyme disease, and it’s more common in the Northeastern part of the United States. It’s spread from the deer or black legged tick, usually in the summer months.

Fortunately, in most cases, Lyme disease is easily treatable. “It’s usually treated with a 10–21-day course of antibiotics,” Gennaro say. “Once they’re treated with antibiotics the recovery is fairly quick and complete. It can take a few weeks or longer.”

Usually, because ticks are so small, a parent or child may not even see one or know the child was bitten until there are symptoms.

Symptoms of Lyme disease include:

  • Red, circular rash that looks like a bullseye
  • Flu like symptoms
  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches
  • Joint pain

“Prevention is key,” Gennaro says. “We recommend using a good insect repellent that has DEET.” She also advises to wear long sleeves and pants when walking in the woods, stay on trails and avoid tall brush, shower immediately after being in the woods and check daily for ticks. “Make sure you’re checking armpits, in your hair and groin as those are the areas where ticks tend to hide,” Gennaro says. If you believe your child has suffered a tick bite and is demonstrating the symptoms of Lyme disease, contact your pediatrician.

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