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Lyme Disease Symptoms in Children

Written by Dr. Diane Mueller

Lyme Disease symptoms in children were largely at the start of understanding what Lyme Disease is. Initially, Lyme Disease was discovered by the recognition by Dr. Alan Steer of noticing a large number of children with juvenile arthritis in 1975.

Since 1975, we have a greater understanding of Lyme Disease symptoms in children, however, we are still in the process of uncovering the many different disease processes that can be caused by Lyme.

Firstly, Lyme Disease is basically a bacterial infection causes by the bacteria called Borrelia. Lyme Disease is classically caused by the species of Borrelia called Burgdorferi, however there are several other species of Borrelia that can actually cause Lyme Disease.

Lyme Disease symptoms in children include:

1)  Arthritis and arthritis type pain

2)   Sudden onset of headaches

3)   Bullseye Shaped Rash (see our blog on this)

4)   Low grade fever/chills

5)   General Malaise (just complaining of not feeling

6)   Swollen glands

7)   Muscle pain


You can notice that other than the arthritis and the rash, these symptoms look basically like a flu. Therefore, it is not uncommon that Lyme Disease is contracted in children and goes largely unnoticed. The rash, which is a more distinctive part of Lyme Disease, is not present in many children or is hidden underneath hair on the scalp and therefore is not identified. 


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Many people are under a false understanding that Lyme Disease is only present in the New England states of the United States. While Connecticut was where Lyme was discovered and while the East coast does have a huge predominance of Lyme Disease, ticks that contain Borrelia have spread throughout the United States and a large portion of the world. Therefore, we cannot make any sort of assumption about the presence or absence of Lyme Disease based upon our geographical location.

Lyme Disease responds best to early treatment. Therefore, if you and your child play outside and have sudden onset of the symptoms above, it is worth getting proper Lyme Testing done in order to truly evaluate if this is Lyme Disease or just symptoms of the flu. Please see our blog called Lyme Disease Testing for an understanding of proper testing as not all testing for Lyme Disease is accurate, and there is a high rate of false negative is the testing done conventionally speaking.


Also, for a full list of symptoms that occur in individuals if Lyme Disease goes untreated see our blog called Lyme Disease Symptoms.

It can obviously be scary as a parent when you read out Lyme Disease online and the possibilities of your child having this disease. The most important thing to realize is that while Lyme Disease is serious, it is treatable. It is not entirely clear in research if Lyme Disease is totally curable or if it is more like chicken pox or other diseases that we contract and then co-exist with in healthy ways. Even if future research confirms that we never totally get rid of this infection, we can absolutely co-exist with it completely symptom free. Therefore, work to not stress about the possibilities of this, and work on getting proper testing and evaluation from a Lyme Literate Doctor.


It is also possible that Lyme Disease can be passed from mother to child in utero as well as
through breast milk. If your child has Lyme Disease and you do not play outside much, consider that the child’s mother may also have Lyme Disease. This should especially be considered if mom has any sort of health symptoms, but most lab testing on mom looks normal. [1],[2]  

Borrelia has been found in breast milk of nursing mothers. Whether or not enough of the borrelia microorganisms are passed in breast milk for the child to contract the infection is not totally clear in research, but the fact that these microorganisms are present in the milk of nursing mothers is enough to consider treatment of mom as a possibility as well.  At this point, it does not look like Lyme Disease is passed through sexual secretions, so your intimate partners are safe from contracting this.

Be careful of what you read online as there is a lot of misinformation out there. Make sure if you
need treatment you are working with a Lyme Literate doctor as more and more research is coming out and not all doctors are staying abreast of the latest in Lyme Disease research.

[1] ·  Horowitz R, Yunker
LL. Lyme Disease and Pregnancy: Implications of Chronic Infection, PCR testing
and Prenatal Treatment Case Presentation. 16th International Scientific
Conference on Lyme Disease and other Tick-Borne Diseases. June 7, 8, 2003.

Maldanado Y, et al. Current Concepts of Infections of the Fetus and Newborn
Infant (Chapter 1). In Remington and Klein’s Infectious Diseases of the Fetus
and Newborn Infant, 8th ed., 2016.

For more information on the topic of Lyme Disease Symptoms, see our other blogs:

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