Your Child’s Health: Lyme disease

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CLEVELAND-- It’s a little bug that can cause big health problems for your child. In recent years, the tick population has dramatically increased in Ohio and so has the spread of Lyme disease. Patti Conte of Valley View had cause for concern when she found a tick on her son.  "I saw a bump on his head and I touched it.  And, it was a tick. And, it was really in his head and we had to pry it out. I was worried about all diseases they can carry,” Conte said.

Dr. Frank Esper, a pediatric infectious disease specialist with Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital says the tick population in Ohio is growing and so is Lyme Disease.  He has seen three cases already this year. He said the telltale sign of Lyme disease is a distinctive rash around the bite.  "Most people recognize this bull’s-eye looking rash that just continues to grow.  Sometimes it's on an arm or a leg or the back. It has a very red center, surrounded by a little bit of paleness, surrounded by a very red outer ring. That's the bull’s-eye rash; that's the tick rash,” he said.

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Dr. Esper said the traditional treatment is antibiotics for a couple of weeks. The disease usually goes away.  But, serious health problems can develop if the Lyme disease bacteria goes untreated and gets into the bloodstream. “It can cause heart problems, neurologic problems, meningitis.  Eventually it can get into your joints and causes a lot of arthritis,” Dr. Esper added.

Obviously, it is best to prevent our child from getting bit by a tick. Covering exposed skin with long-sleeve shirts and pants may not always happen in the summertime. Spraying your child with an insect repellent with DEET is recommended.  Dr. Esper said the insect repellent should contain between 20-30% DEET. “The ticks will actually want to avoid you and you will prevent those bites from happening,” he added.

Dr. Esper said one is more likely to develop Lyme disease if the tick stays attached for 48 hours. "Now we look in their scalp, in the ears, behind their ears, in their armpits -- anywhere we can think of that a tick can be hiding.  And, also we have dogs.  We've been checking them out left and right, too,” Conte added.

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