Lyme Disease | Frequently Asked Questions

Will my child be OK?

Most likely. Caught early, the vast majority of children make a full recovery from Lyme disease.

Is Lyme disease contagious?

No, not from person-to-person. You can only get Lyme disease from being bitten from a tick that is carrying the bacteria.

Can my child be diagnosed with Lyme disease if there’s no evidence of a tick bite?

Yes, many people with Lyme disease are diagnosed without any knowledge of a tick bite, if there’s a possibility that they may have been exposed to one of the bacteria-carrying ticks.

Is there a vaccine for Lyme disease?

There used to be, but it was taken off the market in 2002. No vaccine for Lyme disease is currently available.

Is Lyme disease chronic?

Doctors don’t believe that Lyme disease is chronic, but some children experience what’s called “post-infectious syndrome.” This is a condition that occurs after many bacterial and viral infections, including mononucleosis and hepatitis A.

There’s a wide range of symptoms that your child could experience from post-infectious syndrome, but some of the more common ones include:

  • feeling fatigued
  • weakness
  • joint aches and pains
  • shooting pains
  • headaches
  • difficulty sleeping
  • problems concentrating

If you've had Lyme disease already, can you get it again?

Yes — humans do not develop immunity to Lyme disease, so re-infection is possible.

How can Lyme disease be prevented?

Regular tick checks

Check yourself and your family frequently for ticks, especially if you live or are traveling in an area where the ticks are common — even if you’ve only been out in your yard. Black-legged ticks can be extremely tiny, measuring less than one millimeter across, so make sure you search your child’s clothing and body very thoroughly. 

Since it takes about 48 hours for an infected tick to transmit Lyme disease, one thorough check per day is enough (and much better than several hasty checks). Remember to check:

  • all parts of the body that bend: behind the knees, between fingers and toes, underarms and groin
  • other areas where ticks are commonly found: belly button, in and behind the ears, neck, hairline and top of the head
  • hair – run a fine-toothed comb through to check for ticks
  • where underwear waistband touches the skin
  • where pants waistband touches the skin
  • anywhere else clothing presses on the skin

It’s also a good idea to visually check all other areas of your child's body and hair, and run fingers gently over skin.

Keep ticks away from skin

Dress your family in: 

  • long pants with legs tucked into socks, because ticks can't bite through clothes
  • socks and closed-toed shoes
  • light-colored clothing so any ticks are visible

Shower after all outdoor activities are over for the day. It may take four to six hours for ticks to attach firmly to skin. Showering will help remove unattached ticks.

Products that contain DEET are tick-repellent but do not kill the tick and are not 100 percent effective. Use a brand of insect repellent that is designated as child-safe if your child is 1 year or older. For infants, check with your pediatrician about whether it’s ok to use repellent and if so, what brands he recommends. Treat clothing with a product that contains permethrin, which is known to kill ticks on contact.

Try to avoid tick playgrounds

Ticks like low-level shrubs and grasses, particularly at the edges of wooded areas. If you’re hiking, try to stay in the center of the trail and avoid bushwhacking. Walk on cleared paths or pavement through wooded areas and fields when possible.

What should I do if I find a tick on my child?

First, don't panic — two things are on your side:

  • The risk of developing Lyme disease after being bitten by a tick is only about 1 to 3 percent.
  • Ticks can’t transmit the bacteria that cause Lyme disease until they attach and begin to feed, which makes them engorged. This can take up to 48 hours, so if you find a tick that isn’t engorged, your child may be less likely to contract Lyme disease.

All you need to do is to remove the tick and watch for symptoms. Here’s how:

  • Remove the tick using a fine-tipped pair of tweezers.Grasp the body of the tick and pull in an upward motion until the tick comes out. Do not squeeze or twist the tick’s body. Put the tick in a bottle.
  • Take note of the size and color of the tick, as well as your estimate of the time it has been attached and whether or not it is engorged.
  • It's not necessary to take your child to a doctor after a tick bite, but if you have questions or want a consult, see your child's pediatrician. In some cases, your child’s doctor may prescribe antibiotics to prevent Lyme disease from developing.