Terrifying Lyme Disease Symptoms to Look for in Kids

Jacqueline Burt Cote
Big Kid

lyme disease tickYou know the trademark Lyme disease symptoms to watch for in your kids: The red, ring-shaped rash, fatigue, achy joints. But now that the tick-borne infection's prime season (summer) is in full swing, you might want to know about a few less-common symptoms to look out for. I speak from experience: Luckily, neither of my kids has contracted Lyme (so far), even though we live in Connecticut, the birth state of the disease, but I've had it twice myself, and the first time I was a kid.

I like to think of myself as a sort of trailblazer: I was 12, it was 1988, and barely anyone had heard of Lyme disease. Even the medical community was still largely in the dark. For example, the testing process had a few kinks that needed to be ironed out, hence the false-negative result of the blood test I was given the day after I woke up with a big, swollen tick attached to my chest.

Figuring I was in the clear, the doctor sent me off to resume my typical adolescent summer vacation activities. I never developed the "bull's-eye" rash; if I felt tired or sore, I chalked it up to spending too many hours swimming or staying up late with my friends watching MTV.

Then, one morning about a month after the tick-finding, I walked into the kitchen for breakfast and my mother's jaw dropped. "What happened to your face?" she screamed. Huh? I ran to the mirror. What happened was that half of my face had become paralyzed overnight. When I smiled or blinked or talked, only one side of my face went with the program; the other side just sort of ... hung there, as if I were a stroke patient. 

Back to the doctor we went. To make this already long-ish story shorter, I did indeed have Lyme disease, despite the fact that I skipped over the typical symptoms and went straight to Bell's palsy, full body rash, and, eventually, convulsions. It took a two-week course of IV tetracycline to get rid of the Lyme, and I still had to spend the rest of that year fighting off a host of other infections with my now-compromised immune system.

The moral of my story? Don't assume your kid doesn't have Lyme because she doesn't exhibit "flu-like" symptoms or get a red circular rash. My advice would be to play it safe and get your kid tested every time she gets a tick (the blood tests are way more accurate now than they were 20 years ago). It might seem like an inconvenience, but believe me, dragging back and forth to the doc is better than dealing with the effects of late-stage Lyme disease (everything from arthritis to heart problems).

Have you had to deal with Lyme disease in your house?


Image via Jerry Kirkhart/Flickr

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