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Lyme Disease Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Rachel Torrens

Rachel is a Nurse Practitioner with experience working as a high school teacher, skin surgery center, and as a family NP.

In this lesson, we will clear up any confusion about the mysterious sickness known as Lyme disease. We will explore the symptoms, cause, treatment and prevention to enhance your understanding of this illness.

Defining Lyme Disease

Have you ever heard of Lyme disease? Perhaps you thought it was a sickness caused by eating too many limes, but it's not. Lyme disease is an illness caused by a species of bacteria called Borrelia. These bacteria get into your body and cause you to feel really sick, meaning you can have:

  • a high fever or chills
  • body aches
  • headache
  • swollen glands under your chin
  • extreme tiredness

In addition to these flu-like symptoms, an infected person usually develops a rash. In fact, the rash is what helps the doctor know it is Lyme disease and not the flu!

This target-like rash, known as a bulls-eye rash, is commonly seen in those with Lyme disease.
Bulls-eye rash image

The classic rash associated with Lyme disease is a bull's-eye rash. This rash looks just like a target with a bull's-eye in the center. But because people are like snowflakes, no two are the same, and sometimes the rash can look different. Certain people get red splotches all over the body and never develop the classic bull's-eye rash.

How Do You Get Lyme Disease?

In North America, the most common way of getting Lyme disease is from a tick bite. The Borrelia bacteria lives inside the blacklegged tick, commonly called a deer tick. When the blacklegged tick latches onto you, it is able to transmit the bacteria into your bloodstream. The tick must usually be attached for at least 36 hours in order to pass the bacteria along.

Now, spotting a tick on your body seems like it would be an easy task. However, the blacklegged tick is super tiny. The baby blacklegged tick can be as small as the period at the end of this sentence. Crazy, right? Even a full-grown female blacklegged tick is only two to three millimeters, about the size of a Nerds candy.

The blacklegged tick, or deer tick, is shown here compared to a dime.
Deer tick relative size image

Treating Lyme Disease

Since Lyme disease is caused by bacteria, it is able to be cured! The type of medicine that kills bacteria causing an infection is called an antibiotic. The antibiotics need to be taken for several weeks to prevent complications.

If a person does not receive treatment for Lyme disease, weeks or months later that person can develop significant problems like aching joints, non-functioning muscles or brain swelling. This is why it is important to receive treatment for Lyme disease as soon as possible!

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