20 Things Moms Should Know About Lyme Disease

Mandy Velez | Apr 29, 2019 Healthy Living
20 Things Moms Should Know About Lyme Disease
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girl running in field

As spring makes its comeback and summer trails close behind, ticks will become another point of concern for parents of kids who love going outside. This concern is valid: The tiny bigs can infect unsuspecting, happy people with Lyme disease and other illnesses. It's not exclusive to kids, either; adults can get it as well. But as the little ones will spend the most time in the woods at camp or in the backyard, it's important for moms to know about the disease just as much as they should know how to remove ticks. Year after year, moms warn others about the dangers of Lyme disease. When untreated, the disease is painful and drawn out. This is where awareness comes in and why May is dedicated to getting the word out about Lyme disease in particular. The more informed moms are about what the disease is, its symptoms, and treatment, the better prepared they can be to protect their kids -- or to handle a diagnosis should it come. 

Turns out, there's a lot to know about Lyme disease and little that people actually seem know about it. Most people see it one of two ways. The first group thinks it's a no-big-deal disease that goes away easily. The second group fears the worst. The truth about Lyme disease isn't that simple, though. As we share below, some cases go away quickly and are easy to treat with antibiotics. But cases that are left untreated can lead to some of the more debilitating symptoms.

We'll also address the small stuff, such as who is at risk and when? Take for instance, the states that have the highest rates of Lyme disease. That isn't really common knowledge, and it's just one of the many aspects of the disease to know about. It's true what they say about knowledge being power. In this case, it's power over ticks and the disease they carry that can wreak havoc on a family's life.  

  • Lyme disease is transferred to humans through infected ticks.


    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cites infected backlegged ticks as a transferrer of Lyme disease. The ticks carry the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, which is what causes the disease.

  • It cannot be spread from human to human.


    Lyme disease can only be spread through ticks or carriers of the bacteria into the body -- not by humans. According to the Children's Hospital in Boston, there are three types of bacteria that can cause the disease. Only one is found in the US.

  • Lyme disease most often occurs in late spring and early summer.


    The Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA) says the most risky time of year to get Lyme Disease is in the spring and summer. Be vigilant about checking for ticks and/or marks on the body during this time. 

  • There are symptoms to look out for.


    You can tell someone has Lyme disease by spotting symptoms such "fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans," per the CDC. Those ailments combined with a possible exposure to a tick can be an indictor of the disease, but testing is available. 

  • The Lyme disease rash is unique.


    The IDSA says the rash forms as a "red, circular 'bulls-eye' rash often accompanied by muscle and joint aches." Most people (in the 70 to 80 percent range) get the rash along with the other symptoms. 

  • It's diagnosed with a blood test.


    Lyme disease is officially diagnosed with a positive blood test -- the test looking for the bacteria that causes the disease. But know the test can take up to "four to six weeks" to show a true result as that's how long it takes for the antibodies that fight the disease to become present in the bloodstream. 

  • Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics.


    The success rate of using antibiotics to fight the disease is pretty high; treatment lasts three to four weeks with oral medication. There are some cases, however, in which Lyme disease can become a chronic illness

  • "Chronic Lyme disease" most often develops when the disease is not properly treated.


    Most people recover just fine, but when patients are undertreated or untreated for Lyme disease, about 10 20 percent of people, it can become chronic as symptoms can persist or get worse. These symptoms include "debilitating fatigue, muscle and joint pain, headaches, mental fog causing difficulty with memory or finding words, irritability, and sleeplessness."

  • Lyme disease is not exclusive to the East Coast.


    It's myth that Lyme disease can only happen on the East Coast. As the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Education Foundation (ILADEF) states, ticks can be found in 43 states (and are found in half of the counties in those states). So take proper precaution wherever there could be a tick, which is most places.

  • It's difficult to diagnose.


    Lyme disease isn't easy to diagnose because of the different types of symptoms that, together, indicate the disease is present. Keep track of all symptoms and places a tick would have came into contact with the body. Getting a diagnosis right is key because undertreating the disease can have long-term consequences.

  • Don't end treatment too early.


    As it's important to start treatment for Lyme disease early, it's also important not to cut treatment short. The recommended full amount of treatment time is four to six weeks.

  • Moms can pass ton he pathogens for the disease.


    There have been cases of moms potentially passing the disease to their fetuses, but perhaps indirectly. According to a report by Scientific American, however, with no direct "causation" evidence, the World Health Organization (WHO) removed “congenital Lyme disease” from its list of diseases.

  • Doctors go back and forth between two types of diagnoses.


    Because of the two different prognoses for lyme disease, a long- and short-term version, doctors use different terms to describe the diagnosis for each person. Two big ones include acute and chronic. Acute is the one most people have and chronic is the longer version. 

  • There are also different terms for the illness.


    The terms commonly used are chronic lyme disease, late-stage Lyme disease, and post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome. They sound the same but are different, depending on the symptoms and stage the patient exhibits.

  • There's not a lot of money for research.


    According to Rolling Stone, there's not much research because it requires a lot of money. It's a hard disease to diagnose in blood, let alone research, which is sadly why the scientific focus on it isn't big. "We need more field studies, more data, but who’s going to fund a 10-year field project?” one source recounts in the piece.

  • Celebrities have it too.

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    Avril Lavigne, Kelly Osborne, and Bella Hadid's mother Yolanda all have had Lyme disease. And the more A-list attention, the better, according to the Rolling Stone source: "As people become more aware of the disease and become more connected to people who have the disease, fundraising increases.”

  • Climate change can play a role.


    Warmer temperatures mean more breeding grounds for ticks. With that, comes more chances of getting the disease as the pests spread. 

  • Rash/early symptoms may appear 7 to 14 days after the infection (or not at all).


    In kids especially, look for the bulls-eye rash within one to two weeks after being exposed to a possible tick. It's flat and red but not painful. The rash may not be felt at all. Flu-like symptoms may also be present. 

  • Undetected Lyme disease that isn't caught right away has several symptoms.


    If Lyme disease isn't detected or even visible early enough, the infected child can go to Stage 2 of its progress. Symptoms to look out for two weeks to a month after infection include "facial nerve palsy, or loss of muscle tone in the face," more flu-like symptoms, or lymphocytic meningitis." Stage 3 includes joint pain.

  • Prevention is key.


    The best way to prevent Lyme disease is to avoid tick bites. The ILADEF advises wearing long pants and shirts, and tucking pants into socks when in a tick habitat. The foundation also advises wearing repellent or lemon eucalyptus oil.

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