Children with Lyme disease may appear initially to have a slight fever and flu-like illness indistinguishable in large part from a general cold or bug going round school. Headaches, muscle aches, and severe fatigue often prompt parents to investigate further however, even when no tick bite was noticed. Where a rash is also present this is likely to indicate Lyme disease, especially if the rash is distinctly bull’s-eye shaped. Immediate medical attention should be sought so as to access antibiotic treatment and catch the infection in the initial stages before it becomes systemic. Some children will not develop the rash however, or the flu-like illness. Instead, joint pain that looks like juvenile idiopathic arthritis may commence in the weeks or months after a tick bite. This may then dissipate, as do the rash and the flu-like illness, only to return in some patients in the following weeks or months.
Stages of Lyme Disease in Children
Usual stages of Lyme disease in children include an initial bull’s-eye rash within one or two weeks of the bite. This may look like a bruise in those with darker skin, making it hard to spot in accident-prone kids getting plenty of bangs and scrapes from boisterous play. Children may recall picking a ‘scab’ off the area that is now red and inflamed – the scab most likely being the tick. Some children do not develop the rash, or it is hidden in the fold of the knee, on the scalp, or elsewhere on the body. Those that do get the rash usually see it grow steadily outwards over a period of a few days before gradually fading within a month. It is usually not painful or itchy, due to substances in the tick’s saliva, but can be warm to the touch and indurate (hardened in the center).
Lyme Carditis in Children
Some children with Lyme disease develop acute carditis where the heart becomes infected and inflamed. Abnormal heart rhythms can result and children may feel breathless or experience palpitations that can be scary and unnerving. Atrioventricular block can be assessed using an echocardiogram and antibiotic treatment then used to fight the infection. In some children with Lyme disease it may be necessary to use a temporary pacemaker during treatment to regulate the heart.
Lyme Meningitis in Children
Children who have become infected with Lyme disease bacteria that enter the central nervous system may begin to experience severe headaches, facial nerve palsy, and other neurological symptoms of Lyme disease such as pins and needles in the hands and feet. Lyme meningitis may cause lesions in the brain that resemble those of Multiple Sclerosis and the pleocytosis in the cerebrospinal fluid can create considerable confusion in doctors diagnosing the illness. Neck stiffness and headaches should prompt a parent to seek immediate medical attention for their child in order to rule out a bacterial meningitis infection.
Read on – Chronic Lyme Disease in Children