Lyme disease, an inflammatory condition spread through a tick bite, is caused by a bacterium that ticks pick up after biting mice or deer that are infected with Lyme disease. Lyme disease is most common in the late spring, summer and early fall, with most cases occurring in the Northeast, upper Midwest and Pacific coast area in the US.
SheKnows message board member linpach1 in Maryland was shocked to find out her 4-year-old daughter had been diagnosed with Lyme disease.
"Sophia had been a little off the last 2 weeks, some tummy aches and she threw up once for no reason, so I took her to the doctor earlier this week. He called me tonight and she has Lyme disease!" she said. "How scary! I never noticed a tick on her and she never had the usual bullseye rash that you get with Lyme disease -- apparently 25% of people never get this rash."
Fortunately, they caught the illness in the early stages, and Sophia was immediately started on antibiotics.
Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria often carried by deer ticks -- ticks that can be so tiny, they're about the size of the period at the end of this sentence.
Here are some of the earliest symptoms you may notice:
- Round, raised flat spot at the tick bite (see photo at right)
- Chills and fever
- Muscle pain
Advanced stage symptoms may include all-over itchiness, shooting pains, loss of muscle tone, joint inflammation, a stiff neck, dizziness, and strange or unusual behavior.
Diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease
It's important to note that not all ticks carry Lyme disease, and not all people infected with the bacterium show symptoms. If you are bitten by a tick and live in a high-risk area, or you are exhibiting symptoms of Lyme disease, contact your doctor.
A blood test can confirm you have contracted Lyme disease. If caught early, Lyme disease can be successfully treated with a round of antibiotics. Early treatment is important since advanced-stage complications can lead to permanent neurological, joint and heart problems.
Outdoor activities during the warmer months and having outdoor pets increases your risk of Lyme disease, but that doesn't mean you need to keep your family indoors all year round.
You can reduce your risk of a tick bite by:
- Using an insect repellent on exposed skin and clothing.
- Wearing light colored long pants, long sleeved shirts, and high boots when hiking or in tall grass.
- Tucking pant cuffs into socks or high boots.
- Checking your clothing and pets during and after outdoor activities.
Ticks that carry Lyme disease are small and, often, people don't even realize they have been bit. Being vigilant in taking precautions and checking your family's skin, hair, clothing and pets for ticks is the most effective way to avoid Lyme disease.