“The number of reported Lyme Disease cases, occurring annually, has more than tripled over the past 10 years, with children most at risk for the disease,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Children are especially susceptible to becoming infected with Lyme Disease and its co-infections because of the amount of time spent outdoors. “The highest infection rate occurs in children, ages 5 to 9. Overall, the disease is most common among boys, ages 5 to 19,” according to the CDC.
“While treating the medical aspect of the disease is paramount, for children and adolescents with chronic Lyme Disease, medical treatment alone is often not enough. Many of these children have Lyme related psychiatric symptoms or educational impairments. Their serious symptoms, combined with the duration of the illness often leads to gaps in their development. Their isolation can leave them lonely, and inhibit their ability to interact with peers, ” states Sandy Berenbaum, LCSW, BCD in a letter published in Lyme Times Children’s Treatment Issue1.
Because the symptoms of Lyme Disease can be non-specific, adults may not realize a child is ill. The most common symptoms in children and adolescents include headaches, fatigue unrelieved by rest, gastrointestinal problems, sleep disturbances, joint and muscle pain, poor concentration, inability to focus, mood swings, sudden behavioral changes, tics, light and/or sound sensitivity and new onset of anxiety disorders2. Other symptoms may include poor short-term memory, difficulty reading and/or writing, confusion, fevers, chills and dizziness.
The more severe symptoms of Lyme Disease meet the same criteria for one or more other illnesses, allowing the disease to progress untreated. Many children and adolescents have been misdiagnosed with anxiety disorder, depression, anorexia nervosa, AD/HD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Tourettes and psychosis.
Lyme pediatric specialist Charles Ray Jones, MD documented gestational Lyme Disease in some children he thinks were infected in utero who presented with symptoms including frequent fevers, increased incidence of ear and throat infections, increased incidence of pneumonia, irritability, joint and body pain, poor muscle tone, gastroesophageal reflux, small windpipe (tracheomalacia), cataracts and other eye problems, developmental delay, learning disabilities and psychiatric manifestations3.
Lyme Disease may negatively impact a child’s ability to perform academically because the disease can contribute to learning disabilities and behavioral problems. However, children may qualify for special education accomodations or services. Sandy Berenbaum, LCSW, BCD also recommends unlimited time for testing, separate testing locations, reading tests to students and being excused from a percentage of homework to help children with Lyme Disease caused learning disabilities4.
1“Adolescents and Lyme Disease.” Daniel Cameron MD. Web. 19 Feb. 2016
2Berenbaum, S., LCSW, BCD. (n.d.). Tick-Borne Disease In Children And Adolescents A Medical Illness/ A Multidisciplinary “Cure”
3“Children with Lyme Disease.” LymeDisease.org. Web. 19 Feb. 2016. https://www.lymedisease.org/lyme-basics/lyme-disease/children
4Berenbaum, S., LCSW, BCD. (n.d.). Kids and Lyme Disease How It Affects Their Learning