Children and Tick-Borne Disease

Children are at risk of tick exposures both within Colorado and when traveling out of state. Our children can be exposed through play, sports, camps, school field trips, contact with pets and family activities, running through grass and rolling on the ground. Doing what kids do!

Recognition of the potential signs and symptoms of tick-borne illnesses is crucial in getting timely diagnosis and treatment for your children.

Children are at highest risk for contracting Lyme disease. According to the CDC, the highest infection rates occur in children, ages 5 to 15. Of the over 300,000 people infected in the U.S. each year, one in four is a child.

In addition to well-known symptoms such as joint pain and fever, children may have a unique presentation of Lyme disease, including:

  • Mood Swings
  • Vision Problems
  • Headaches and Stomachaches
  • Hyperactivity/ADHD Symptoms
  • Autism-like Behaviors
  • Oppositional Behaviors
  • Self-Mutilating Behaviors
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Trouble with Processing Speed and Memory
  • Vocal/Motor Tics
  • Sudden Onset Anxiety Disorders
  • Light and Sound Sensitivity
  • Difficulty Focusing
  • Obsessive Compulsive Behaviors
  • Dark circles under eyes
  • Irregular Rashes
  • Lethargy

Young children may not recognize or volunteer these signs and symptoms 

“Some of these symptoms may be very subtle, so it is difficult for [parents and] teachers to realize that they are dealing with a sick child, rather than a child who is daydreaming, or simply trying to avoid his school work.”
—S. Berenbaum, LCSW

Sometimes neurological/cognitive symptoms are the only symptoms that present in a child with a Lyme disease infection. Other times better known symptoms like joint pain, fever, and an Erythema migrans (“Bulls-Eye”) rash are present.

Pediatric Lyme disease can cause behavior problems
Pediatric Lyme disease has been misdiagnosed as OCD, or pediatric Bi-polar disorder. It may also cause suicidal thoughts and Depression. When a child exhibits sudden changes in behavior with no known cause, the possibility of Lyme and other tick-borne infections should be considered.

Lyme disease symptoms can be vague, and change daily
Some children with tick-borne disease have been accused of malingering, or trying to be manipulative. Parents, coaches and teachers should be aware that children who appear to have disingenuous symptoms could be very ill, and that a child’s symptoms and abilities may change on a daily basis.

This tiny tick may be easily missed. Complete thorough tick checks on your children!

Completing daily TICK CHECKS on your children after time spent outdoors or contact with pets is so important in preventing disease! Timely and proper removal of ticks reduces the chance of disease transmission.

Protect your children by becoming informed on prevention measures, proper tick removal and signs and symptoms of disease. Ticks that can transmit disease can be as small as a poppy seed and easily missed.