Lyme Disease in Children: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Picture of types of ticks with size comparison to a sesame seed

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection spread by ticks.

Antibiotics can treat Lyme disease. If you do not treat your child's Lyme disease, it can lead to problems with the skin, joints, heart, and nervous system. These problems can develop weeks, months, or even years after your child gets the infection.

Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics even if he or she is not yet certain that your child has Lyme disease.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Give your child antibiotics as directed. Do not stop using them just because your child feels better. Your child needs to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Give your child an over-the-counter pain medicine if needed, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). Read and follow all instructions on the label. No one younger than 20 should take aspirin. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
  • Do not give your child two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.

To prevent Lyme disease in the future

  • Avoid ticks:
    • Learn where ticks are found in your community, and keep your child away from those areas if possible.
    • Cover as much of your child's body as possible when he or she plays in grassy or wooded areas. Keep in mind that it is easier to see ticks on light-coloured clothes.
    • Use insect repellents, such as products containing DEET. Always follow the directions on the label when applying an insect repellent with DEET to a child. Products containing DEET are not recommended for children younger than 6 months of age.
    • Take steps to control ticks on your property if you live in an area where Lyme disease occurs. Clear leaves, brush, tall grasses, woodpiles, and stone fences from around your house and the edges of your yard or garden. This may help get rid of ticks.
  • When your child comes in from outdoors, check for ticks on his or her body, including the groin, head, and underarms. The ticks may be about the size of a poppy seed. If you are having a hard time checking for ticks on your child's scalp, comb your child's hair with a fine-tooth comb.
  • If you find a tick, remove it quickly. Use tweezers to grasp the tick as close to its mouth (the part in your child's skin) as possible. Slowly pull the tick straight out-do not twist or yank-until its mouth releases from your child's skin.
  • Ticks can come into your house on clothing, outdoor gear, and pets. These ticks can fall off and attach to you.
    • Check your clothing and outdoor gear. Remove any ticks you find. Then put your clothing in a clothes dryer on high heat for 1 hour to kill any ticks that might remain.
    • Check your pets for ticks after they have been outdoors.
  • When hiking in the woods, carry a small dry jar or ziplock bag. If you find a tick on your child's body, remove the tick and put it in the jar or bag. Store the container in the freezer so you can give it to your doctor if symptoms develop. The tick can be tested to learn whether it is carrying the bacteria that cause Lyme disease.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has skipping or pounding heartbeats, a severe headache, or neck pain.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • Your child develops a new rash.
  • Your child is very tired.
  • Your child has joint pain (especially with redness and swelling).
  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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