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What Is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is an infection caused by a spirochete bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi. The disease is spread to humans by the bites of deer ixodes ticks infected with this bacteria. Deer ticks are tiny black-brown creatures. They live in forests or grassy, wooded, marshy areas near rivers, lakes, or oceans. Many people who have been infected with Lyme disease were bitten by deer ticks while hiking or camping, during other outdoor activities, or even while spending time in their own backyards, from the late spring to early fall.

Deer ticks.  The tick on the right is engorged.

B. burgdorferi enlarged microscopically.

Lyme Disease Symptoms

The first and most obvious symptom of Lyme disease is a rash that begins as a pink or red circle called erythema migrans several inches in diameter. This is where your child was bitten. It may appear from 3 to 30 days after the bite occurred and expand over time. Some people may have a single circle, while others may have many. Most people who develop the rash won't feel anything, but for others the rash may hurt, itch, burn, or feel warm to the touch. The rash most commonly appears on the head, neck, groin, thighs, trunk, and armpits –common areas where ticks may be found on the body.

Along with the rash, other symptoms might include: 

- Headache

- Chills

- Fever

- Fatigue

- Swollen glands, usually in the neck or groin

- Aches and pains in the muscles or joints


Please call us for an appointment if some or any of the above symptoms occur after a tick bite.





Diagnosis And Treatment Of Lyme Disease

Ticks should be removed promptly.  The body of the tick should not be squeezed during removal.  It should be grasped with a fine tweezers as close to the skin as possible and removed by gently pulling the tick straight out without twisting motions.


Place the tick in a plastic Ziploc-type bag. Do not preserve it in alcohol. If indicated, the tick can be sent to a laboratory for identification to make sure it is a deer tick. Some laboratories can even try to test the tick for the Lyme disease spirochete as well.


Blood testing for Lyme disease at the time of a recognized tick bite is not recommended.  Due to the way our immune system works, there is little or no chance that your child would have detectable antibodies to B burgdorferi from a new infection at the time of the tick bite. Any antibodies present at the time would likely represent an incorrect (false-positive) result or evidence of an earlier infection. Even after a Lyme disease infection has been properly treated, antibodies can circulate in our bodies for years. This makes blood testing for a possible second infection difficult.


Routine use of antibiotics in children to prevent Lyme disease immediately after a deer tick bite is not recommended because it is of unproven value and has potential risks and costs.  Most deer ticks (70%-80%), even in highly endemic areas for Lyme disease, are not infected with B burgdorferi.  Furthermore, almost all children who become infected from a recognized deer tick bite will develop the erythema migrans rash at the site of the bite, which is easily recognized and diagnostic of early Lyme disease.  Children with this stage of disease can be treated easily and effectively with little risk of long-term complications.  Treatment, when indicated, is with antibiotics for a 2 to 3 week period.  Treatment for any longer time period has not been shown to be of any benefit.



Photos courtesy of the CDC and AAP

704 PALISADE AVE, TEANECK, NJ 07666 201-836-4301
570 PIERMONT RD, CLOSTER, NJ 07624 201-768-8811

Metropolitan Pediatric Group, Pediatricians, Teaneck & Closter, NJ, Bergen Co 

704 Palisade Avenue, Teaneck, NJ 07666 201-836-4301

570 Piermont Road, Closter, NJ 07624 201-768-8811

Avoid places where ticks live, especially shaded, moist areas.


Cover your arms and legs. Wear a long-sleeved shirt and tuck your pants into your socks.


Wear a hat to help keep ticks away from the scalp. Keep long hair pulled back.


Wear light-colored clothing to make it easier to spot ticks.


Wear enclosed shoes or boots. Avoid wearing sandals in an area where ticks may live.


Use insect repellent. Products with DEET are effective against ticks and can be used on the skin. Look for products that contain no more than 30% DEET. Wash the DEET off with soap and water when your child returns indoors. Products with permethrin can be used on clothing, but cannot be applied to the skin. Click here for more information regarding DEET.


Stay on cleared trails whenever possible. Avoid wandering from a trail or brushing against overhanging branches or shrubs.


After coming indoors, check for ticks. This will only take a couple minutes. Ticks often hide behind the ears or along the hairline. It usually takes more than 48 hours for a person to become infected with the bacteria, so removing any ticks soon after they have attached themselves is very effective for reducing the chances of becoming infected.


Keep in mind, ticks can be found right in your own backyard, depending on where you live.


Keeping your yard clear of leaves, brush, and tall grass may reduce the number of ticks. Ask a licensed professional pest control expert about other steps you can take to reduce ticks in your yard.