Lyme Disease Treatment for Children

Be aware of some differences in the Lyme disease treatment guidelines for children.

Expeditious Lyme Disease treatment is critical for children, even more than it is for adults. Unless immediately treated, Lyme Disease can absolutely ruin a kid’s childhood, making them old before their time with the attendant pain, joint problems, and crushing fatigue.

LD can also cause neurological deficits that teachers and other authorities may misdiagnose as behavioral or learning problems, and treat accordingly… often compounding the problems and, in the long run, resulting in self-fulfilling prophecies.

Almost as troubling is the fact that authorities outside the family — particularly child protection agencies and school districts — may view the complications of the disease as evidence of abuse or neglect. This may sound outrageous, but it’s an increasingly common problem.

The Basics

Approximately 25% of reported LD cases occur in children, including infants.

Early-stage LD in children is complicated by its similarity to idiopathic rheumatoid arthritis (idiopathic being medicalese for “cause unknown”). Therefore, medical personnel must take special care to distinguish between the illnesses, in part by conducting a detailed physical examination of the child, looking for a Lyme rash.

Similarly, they should compile a detailed patient history in order to determine whether the child has suffered known tick bites in the past few weeks, or played in areas where they may have picked up ticks unknowingly. It’s best that they interview both the child and the parent(s), especially if the child is very young.

Otherwise, the diagnostic process is about the same as it is for an adult. If LD is a suspect, especially if they find a rash, the doctor will draw blood and run the existing LD tests, imperfect as they are.

Actual Treatment

Most childhood cases respond well to prompt, appropriate Lyme treatment protocols. As with adults, the standard treatment for childhood LD involves the administration of antibiotics for at least ten days, and often as long as 21. However, a few differences occur here as well.

For example, doctors are often reluctant to treat the disease aggressively in children for fear that the medication will have damaging side effects.

Otherwise, the regimen is similar to that for adults, with most treating physicians administering amoxicillin, doxycycline, and cefuroxime and (less commonly) azithromycin to fight the early-stage infection, in amounts determined by weight. Plus, they will not prescribe doxycycline for children younger than eight.

For chronic Lyme symptoms, especially neurological and cardiac manifestations, most doctors treat with courses of intravenous ceftriaxone and oral penicillin as well as the above medications, in accordance with standard protocol.

The Prevention Angle

It goes without saying that it’s better to prevent LD than try to cure it; but kids being kids, it’s not easy to keep them from going where ticks live. That said, if you’re a parent, it’s a good idea to try to get them to wear protective clothing and bug spray when you know they’ll be in a dangerous area.

You can also give your kids a thorough inspection for ticks as necessary, and teach older children to inspect themselves (they certainly won’t want you to do it). Educate yourself to recognize the early signs of LD infection, and get your child to a Lyme-literate doctor immediately if they display the symptoms.

Some doctors won’t automatically administer antibiotics if a deer tick has bitten your child, because the LD infection rate is low, about 1-2% (at least according to current research). But it’s your responsibility to take care of your child. If you feel it’s necessary, insist that they begin Lyme Disease treatment immediately.