It all starts with a tiny tick. In the spring and summer months, these small but dangerous creatures lurk in tall grasses and wooded areas. Especially in summer camp season, children run the risk of extra exposure to tick bites, which means an increase in the potential for exposure to Lyme disease. When a tick infected with Lyme disease bites a human or animal, it passes bacteria along to the human through its saliva. The bite allows Lyme to enter the bloodstream.
If you’re a parent with a young child, you need to take extra care to ensure that your little one is as safe as possible from tick bites. You also need to be prepared for what to do if your child has a tick on them. Perhaps most importantly, though, you need to know the signs that your child may have Lyme disease. And while there are tell-tale physical symptoms, behavioural signs may hold clues as well. Below are three potential behavioural signs of Lyme disease.
If your child is starting to act a bit listless, it may be related to a reaction from a Lyme infection. Between three and 30 days after a tick bite, Lyme disease starts to take its course. Your child, in addition to fatigue, might display other flu-like symptoms like headaches or stiffness in the neck and joints. Especially if your child has been playing in nature, unexplained tiredness could be one of the first behavioural signs that Lyme disease has begun to take its course.
2. Unusual Facial Expressions
Lyme disease affects the nervous system. This can manifest in quite a few ways, but one that is often reported by people living with Lyme a condition called facial nerve palsy (sometimes known as Bell’s Palsy). In children and adults, this manifests as difficulty controlling some facial muscles: usually the muscles controlling eye, cheek and lip movement. This is usually a sign that Lyme has been in the child’s system for weeks to months.
3. Sudden Difficulty Focusing
Whether or not Lyme disease can truly influence behaviour is disputed in the medical community. Some doctors, however, certainly do believe that the symptoms of Lyme disease often masquerade as symptoms commonly found in children with behavioural challenges like Attention-Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Common characteristics are difficulty focusing, difficulty organising, and being easily distracted when working on things like homework. If your child has never been this way in the past, and is now showing symptoms in line with the above, it may be a sign that the behavioural change is Lyme-related. It seems that reducing other Lyme symptoms with antibiotics has a positive effect in reducing concentration issues potentially related to Lyme disease in children.
How To Keep Kids Safe From Ticks
Some simple steps can be taken to reduce the likelihood that your child is bitten by a tick. Like with all insects, bug repellent is a great way to make sure that if your child is venturing into nature, they’re protected from harm. Long sleeves and long pants are another strategy, so that ticks can’t find their way into their favourite hiding places, like behind the knee. Also be sure to keep plant debris in your yard, like clipped grass or piles of leaves, to a minimum.
Worst-Case Scenario: What To Do If Your Child Has A Tick On Them
Ticks are quite small, but luckily for any parents who want to check their children after a camping trip or a long day in the park, ticks like to hide in a few predictable places. On your child’s head, you might check inside their ears, their hair, and along their hairline, for example. Underarms, behind the knees, and inside the thighs are also common places to find ticks hiding. Belly buttons are also a frequent place ticks gravitate towards.
If you find a tick, use tweezers to gently remove the bug, which is often lodged in the skin via the head. It is advised to thoroughly clean the bite area, and to the surprise of many, it’s also advised to place the tick a sealable bag. To protect yourself after you’ve removed a tick from your child, be sure to thoroughly disinfect your hands and contact a medical professional immediately.
Acute Lyme disease often has physical symptoms like a tell-tale rash shaped like a red dot in the centre of a red ring. But if your child sustained a bite quite some time ago, they might experience what some patients describe as chronic Lyme. That’s when symptoms are felt long after antibiotics have flushed measurable traces of the Lyme bacteria out of an infected person’s system. Many adults report symptoms long after this, so be sure to keep an eye on your children for a reasonable amount of time after a suspected instance of a tick bite.
What To Do If Your Paediatrician Isn’t Lyme-Literate
As mentioned above, some people in the medical and general community are not convinced that there is enough evidence to support the existence of chronic Lyme, or behavioural issues as a result of Lyme disease. If you’re worried about your child having contracted Lyme disease, be sure to contact local support groups or look online for a doctor that has experience with treating Lyme patients. Don’t be afraid to seek a second opinion for peace of mind when it comes to finding a tick, or investigating behavioural changes in your child.