Lyme Disease Awareness
Lymelore is about empowering people, those who suffer from Lyme disease, the families and friends who suffer with them and anyone who wants to extend their knowledge about this tick-borne illness. It’s about providing a deeper understanding of the disease. It’s about going beyond the initial fear, mystery and pain associated with Lyme disease and offering a better path forward.
Those suffering from Lyme disease face a rough go of it sometimes. The various symptoms and side effects can be a lot to deal with. Meanwhile, health insurance doesn’t cover the cost of treatment at this time, and some members of the medical community scoff at if Lyme disease even exists. All of this for a disease that, thanks to climate change, is growing in the number of diagnoses as more and more carrier ticks spread around the globe.
Fact is, Lyme disease is a debilitating infection that can strike any of us in our lifetimes. All it takes is a bite from a tick in an endemic area, with more and more people having this experience each year.
With everything that Lyme disease consists of, more awareness can go a long way toward fighting this illness and helping find a cure for it. Awareness can also help prevent a person from ever being infected.
Below are some ways to help raise awareness of Lyme disease.
Demand the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention fund it more
As Lyme disease author Mary Beth Pfeiffer pointed out at the MyLymeData2018 conference in San Ramon, California, the CDC had a recent year where it gave $184 million to help fight the trendy Zika virus. Lyme? It got just $2.7 million in CDC funds.
It isn’t just on the federal government to fund Lyme disease research, treatment and more. People can donate to the fight against Lyme through websites such as this one or LymeDisease.org. Making donations can help find a faster cure. As of right now, Lyme disease can take years to cure. Let’s find a faster cure together.
Support celebrities with Lyme disease
Every few years, it seems, another famous person reveals a formerly-private struggle with Lyme disease. Some of the celebrities include Alec Baldwin, George W. Bush (during his presidency), Richard Gere, Ben Stiller, Jane Alexander, Daryl Hall, Neneh Cherry, Debbie Gibson, Parker Posey, Jennifer Capriati, Tommy Hilfiger’s daughter Ally, Yolanda Foster, Avril Lavigne and Kelly Osbourne.
Whenever a celebrity comes forward to disclose their Lyme disease, support them. This can be done through posting supportive messages on social media or donating to Lyme foundations or charities in their name.
Pfeiffer urged this during her talk at the recent conference and it’s a salient point. Outrage helps spur change. And there’s much to be outraged about with Lyme disease from the fact it’s not covered by health insurance to the fact that many doctors misdiagnose it or won’t acknowledge its existence.
Support people suffering
As mentioned earlier, those with Lyme disease are in for an ordeal. This ordeal might last months, even years, as treatment can be complicated, costly and not certain to work. The best thing those around the sufferers can do, both to help them and help in the broader fight against Lyme disease, is offer support. Be a sympathetic ear. Read up on the symptoms and side effects of Lyme disease to know what your friend or family member suffering might have in-store for them. And dig in for a long fight.
With enough awareness and support, perhaps a day will come where a faster cure for Lyme disease exists, where treatment is quick, if it’s even needed at all.
Pregnancy and Lyme Disease
Lyme disease can be passed along from pregnant mothers to their unborn babies, a condition known as congenital Lyme disease.
Here’s what pregnant mothers with Lyme disease can do to ensure the best treatment possible for themselves and that their babies have minimal chances of being born with Lyme disease.
The first thing that a prospective mother with Lyme disease will want to do during her pregnancy is to be working with a Lyme-literate medical doctor or naturopathic physician. This will help ensure the best course of treatment for the woman, which reduces her chances of passing Lyme disease on to her baby.
Frequently, people diagnosed with Lyme disease quickly begin a 1-2 month course of antibiotics. Antibiotic treatments can continue while a woman with Lyme disease carries a baby to term, though the woman should consult with her doctor to determine pregnancy-safe antibiotics. These can be taken throughout the pregnancy. The antibiotics will help kill the spirochetes that cause Lyme disease and can be transmitted to a fetus in utero.
Women with Lyme disease who, for whatever reason, don’t want antibiotic treatment during their pregnancies have options as well. Both core blood and placenta can be tested for the spirochetes that cause Lyme disease.
After the baby is born
A mother with Lyme disease might still be uncertain if her child has received it even after they are born. Thus, it’s important for parents to watch a newborn baby for symptoms of Lyme disease. Lyme disease symptoms in infants include low muscle tone, irritability, lackluster feeding, impulsivity and intense crying. Some infants will also develop the tell-tale red migrans, or “Bull’s Eye” rash.
An infant can, of course, also be exposed to Lyme disease after they are born. Thus, parents, particularly those who live in areas endemic for Lyme disease, should keep a close eye for ticks on their baby and remove ticks at once when spotted. Babies, toddlers and other young children should also be closely watched and wearing protective clothing during outings to areas where ticks can frequently be found, such as tall grass or forests.
If a baby does have Lyme disease, it’s advisable to get them on to an appropriate course of treatment as soon as possible. Treatment for infants with Lyme disease can include child-safe antibiotics, which can be obtained through a Lyme-literate pediatrician or other medical practitioner. The good news is that antibiotics can be both particularly effective and given in shorter periods to infants with Lyme disease.
A pregnant woman with Lyme disease need not worry too much. It’s possible to continue treatment for Lyme disease and to have a perfectly healthy baby. It’s just important to talk to a Lyme-literate doctor or naturopathic physician as soon as possible and chart a smart course of treatment for the duration of the pregnancy.
Kids and Lyme disease prevention
When it comes to children and Lyme disease, a parent can never be too careful. A disease that’s tough for even adults to deal with, offering flu-like symptoms, discomfort and potential long-term disability, can prove especially daunting for children.
Here are some tips for preventing Lyme disease in children and what to do in the event of infection.
The best Lyme defense is a good offense against ticks, which carry the bacteria that cause the disease.
There are several ways to guard children from ticks. Children who live in endemic areas should avoid playing in tall grass, leave piles or wooded areas. At least so far as ticks go, it’s safer for children to play on close-cut grass and, if out in nature, stick to the middle of trails.
Should a child be in an area with ticks, such as a nature field, its best they tuck their pants into their socks. Children can also wear insect repellent. Sprays with less than 10 percent DEET are safe for children over six months old and can help keep ticks away.
After playing outdoors or even just once a day during tick season, it’s wise for parents or older children to check themselves for ticks. Should one be found embedded in the skin, they’re best removed by tweezers or by a doctor.
Safely remove a tick from the child’s body as soon as possible. While a tick typically needs 24-48 hours on a child’s body to infect it with Lyme disease, infections can happen sooner than this. Thus, it’s important to remove a tick promptly and follow with a Lyme Disease specialist.
Anyone who believes their child might have Lyme disease should take their child to a pediatrician or Lyme-literate medical doctor as soon as possible. That said, here are some symptoms of Lyme disease in children.
Some Symptoms of Lyme Disease in Children may include
- Flu like symptoms
- Low grade fever and chills
- Swollen glands
- Poor appetite
- Sore throat
- Severe fatigue
- Eye inflammation
- Difficulty concentrating
- Learning Challenges
- Change in mood or sleep habits
- Itchy skin
- Bell’s palsy
- Stiff neck, headache
- Severe headache (meningitis)
- Pain, numbness or weakness in the limbs
aches and pains in muscles and joints
Can a stroke be a sign of Lyme disease in children?
Children can exhibit many symptoms of Lyme disease. One of the scarier symptoms is something that would seem unthinkable in a child — having a stroke.
An article from ScienceDaily breaks down this scenario:
‘Everything about her symptoms indicated stroke: speech deficits, poor comprehension and right-sided face and arm weakness, so we considered treating her with clot-busting drugs,’ said lead study author Arseny Sokolov, MD, of the Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois in Lausanne, Switzerland. ‘But a 16 year-old having a stroke, while not unheard of, would be quite rare so we looked at other possibilities and found Lyme.’
Sadly, this symptom might be easier to spot in children than adults, as they’re more likely to suffer neurological side effects due to Lyme disease. What can appear to be a stroke in children can also be Lyme disease.
As the ScienceDaily article discusses, though, the symptoms are both noticeable and treatable.
Brain imaging was not suggestive of stroke either, but revealed circumscribed brain dysfunction. The treatment team performed a spinal tap. The patient’s spinal fluid showed elevated white blood cell counts and Lyme neuroborreliosis was diagnosed, so the treatment team began a course of antibacterial and antiviral agents. The patient improved immediately after treatment began.
‘The imaging findings for the first time demonstrate acute brain dysfunction that appears to be directly related to neuroborreliosis,’ said senior co-author Renaud Du Pasquier, MD, neurology chairman at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois in Lausanne. ‘It may point out future perspectives for research on the underlying mechanisms.’
The article goes on to note that many Lyme sufferers have symptoms for a long time before being properly diagnosed and that they can experience serious long-term complications as a result. Thus, it’s important that a child exhibiting any stroke symptoms be taken as soon as possible to a Lyme-literate medical doctor.
What about behavioral changes?
It’s normal for a child to experience some behavioral changes as they grow. A child dealing with Lyme disease, though, can experience much more than this.
An article from the Texas Lyme Disease Association breaks it down.
Lyme Disease, often called ‘The Great Imitator,’ can mimic and cause learning disabilities and psychiatric illnesses. According to the American Journal of Psychiatry, ‘One-third of the psychiatric patients had serological signs of past Borrelia burgdorferi [the bacteria that causes Lyme disease] infections.’ Moreover, ‘Lyme disease in children may be accompanied by long-term neuropsychiatric disturbances, resulting in psychosocial and academic impairments.’
There is also an increasing body of evidence that may change the entire paradigm of what has been thought of as ‘psychiatric illnesses’ and ‘learning disabilities.’ Mounting research points to infectious diseases both mimicking and causing ‘psychiatric illnesses.’
The list of behavioral and psychiatric issues that children with Lyme disease can experience is long. These issues include:
- ADD/ADHD/Attention Difficulties
- Asperger’s Syndrome (on the Autism spectrum)
- Auditory or Visual Sequential Processing
- Bipolar Disorder
- Cognitive Deficits
- Executive Function Difficulties (planning and organizing)
- Expressive and Receptive Language
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Memory Deficits
- Panic Attacks
The good news is that behavioral and psychiatric issues caused by Lyme disease are treatable. They are also preventable if the disease is diagnosed early.
What to do in the event of infection
Should a child appear to be infected with Lyme disease, it’s not the end of their or a parent’s world.
The first thing to do is get a diagnosis from a Lyme-literate doctor. Too often, Lyme disease is misdiagnosed or goes undiagnosed in people. The results can be especially heartbreaking with children. Getting a proper diagnosis might be a challenge, since there are only a few pediatric Lyme doctors in the United States and medical insurance won’t pay for visits to them. But it’s worth making every available effort for the child’s sake.
The Texas Lyme Disease Association speaks to this, noting:
It is imperative that children receive a proper diagnosis and medical treatment whether or not the diagnosis is or is not Lyme disease. Qualified Lyme treating physicians have expertise and experience treating patients with Lyme disease and other tick borne illnesses. A competent healthcare professional will make a differential diagnosis in effort to ensure the correct diagnosis is made.
It can be helpful to take your child to be evaluated using the parameters presented in Dr. Robert Bransfield’s Neuropsychiatric Assessment of Lyme Disease
From there, the best course of treatment for pediatric Lyme disease can vary depending on the child. Some parents may opt to put their child onto a two to four-week cycle of an antibiotic such as doxycycline. A two-month cycle and probiotics can be even better for those who want to be on the safe side.
Other potential remedies for Lyme disease in children include, but are not limited to: having them get a lot of rest; introducing probiotics into their system, which can help build healthy gut bacteria; giving them a healthier diet, with things like cold-pressed juice; and avoiding mold, ticks and other parasites.
As far as costs go, families of children suffering from Lyme disease have some options. The Texas Lyme Disease Association notes, “A child with Lyme disease may be afforded rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). Options may include either an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or services under Section 504.”
Lyme disease can be tough for children to deal with. But it doesn’t have to derail their lives.
Pets and Lyme disease
Ticks act as the carrying point for Lyme disease between animals and humans, so it’s only natural that family pets such as dogs would be at risk of becoming infected. In fact, upwards of 90 percent of dogs in endemic areas for Lyme disease can test positive for it.
That said, there are a number of differences to note between humans and dogs about Lyme disease symptoms and treatment.
There are some pretty vast differences between how humans and pets will experience Lyme disease, starting with general symptoms.
When a human contracts Lyme disease, it can sometimes be easy to notice. Erythema migrans, or red bullseye rashes, will develop in some patients. Many people will experience a wide range of debilitating, clearly-identifiable symptoms such as painful and swollen joints, meningitis and Bell palsy. When a human has Lyme disease, they will generally know something isn’t right even if they aren’t immediately diagnosed.
With pets and dogs in particular, it’s different. For whatever reason, only a small number of dogs will exhibit Lyme disease symptoms. Unlike humans who will quickly experience discomfort after becoming infected with Lyme disease, dogs can often live long-term with Borrelia Burgdorferi bacteria in their blood without it becoming the active disease.
The ones that show discomfort will often have arthritis pain, mostly in their hip area. Many times, their limping gets mistaken. Dogs with Lyme disease can also exhibit a lack of interest in play and food. They also might lie around more.
Thus, it’s wise for humans to monitor their dogs for symptoms of active Lyme disease. Other noticeable symptoms include sore joints and muscles, limb lameness, loss of appetite, lymph node enlargement. In more serious cases, seizures, weight loss and vision problems can occur. If any of these symptoms are occurring, it’s important to get a pet to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Left untreated, many problems can arise for dogs, such as kidney damage.
Prevention and treatment
It might actually be easier to both prevent and treat Lyme disease in dogs than in humans. PBS NewsHour noted in 2017 that while a Lyme vaccine went off the market for humans 15 years ago, it’s still legal to use on dogs (though some veterinarians don’t recommend it due to its potential side effects.)
For those adverse to using the vaccine on their dogs, tick prevention, detection and removal remains perhaps the best way to guard against Lyme disease in canines. Topical medications such as NexGard can be applied to help keep ticks from getting on dogs. It’s also wise to check dogs for ticks.
If a dog seems to be exhibiting symptoms of Lyme disease, a veterinarian can make a diagnosis through a blood test. Should this test come back positive, antibiotics such as doxycycline can be used to eradicate the bacteria in the dog’s body and help prevent them from suffering long-term complications. Usually, 1-2 months of antibiotics will take care of Lyme in dogs.
Aside from arthritis, there’s also a risk for dogs with active Lyme disease untreated long-term to suffer heart problems, kidney failure and nervous system complications. This says nothing of the risk an infected pet can pose to eventually having their human become infected. Thus, it’s generally a good idea to seek treatment for a dog exhibiting symptoms of Lyme disease.