The Dude’s Lyme Disease Symptoms:
This year (2017), there was one particular week when our fourth grader was having a really rough time. For that entire week, I tried to figure out what was wrong with the Dude. First, he suffered from headaches, fatigue and fevers – on and off. Standard tired school kid stuff. He was fine more often than he was off. During those off moments, he acted tired and had the occasional headache. He has epilepsy, so his medication often has similar side effects. Meaning, this was really nothing out of the norm for a fourth grader who faces medical problems. As the week progressed, his one leg started to hurt. Then, he experienced neck pain and pain in his arms and legs. To me, it was clear as day that something out of the norm was going on. I started Googling and these were frequently mentioned Lyme Disease symptoms. I became a little suspicious, but…
Medical Expertise is Needed!
Because we were concerned it was related to his epilepsy, we called our neurologist (interestingly enough, the most difficult to reach specialist). When we were finally able to reach the office, they gave us a run around. Over the phone, they said that “he’s probably just going through an adjustment” and scheduled an appointment for mid June. This was the first time they’d give us because it was not “an emergency situation.” When we called, it was the beginning of May and waiting a month and a half for medical attention didn’t seem like a wise idea.
Next, we called the pediatrician who said that we shouldn’t worry. They made an appt for Monday (it was Friday when we called).
On Saturday, I spent the day confirming my suspicions with excessive “Lyme disease symptom” googling. I became a couch expert and was 💯% convinced that his diagnosis was Lyme Disease. I also believe very strongly in a mothers intuition (ok, MY intuition as a Type A know-it-all), so I knew without question what we were dealing with. Through the week, I checked his whole body for ticks and rashes multiple times a day. Nothing anywhere.
The Lyme Disease Rash
At this point, I’m just wishing and hoping to see a bulls-eye rash to validate my diagnosis! It has been said that the rash doesn’t always appear and then the disease becomes misdiagnosed or difficult to diagnose. I was worried about that scenario since it had happened to multiple people in my network.
On Sunday (the day before our Monday pediatrician appointment), the Dude was in a lot of pain and not feeling like himself at all. He was sitting on the couch that afternoon and I looked over to see that his skin had CHANGED. I screamed, “There it is!” Of course, my husband was at work at a show and I was just screaming to myself and my three sons!
There it is, the Dude’s lyme disease bulls-eye rash.
I consulted my husband via phone and made the decision to take him right away to the open Children’s Express. I knew it would be easy to get a quick diagnosis when you could see the bulls-eye rash, so I loaded the three boys into the minivan and we bounced over to the doctor’s office. Here’s the fun house mirror in the lobby that distracted the boys for a good, oh, 2 minutes.
The doctor took one look at the rash and gave immediate confirmation that he had Lyme Disease. At first, she prescribed him a lower level antibiotics for kids with Lyme Disease. After the appointment, I particularly appreciate that this doctor took the time to immediately call the CDC to verify the prescription & dosage. She called us back and had called in a new course of antibiotics that was more suited to his age and weight (doxycycline).
I’m glad I followed my intuition. If anything, because I beat myself up over everything, I wish I had acted faster. But, having that bulls-eye rash to show made diagnosis easy – and it can and has been a challenge for many I know since symptoms present so differently across different people.
Recovering from Lyme
Luckily, the little guy felt better within a day or two on the medication and has been (KNOCK ON WOOD) Lyme Disease symptom-free since completing his antibiotics course. I recognize Lyme is a stealthy and sneaky disease, so we’ve got our eyes open for it, but happy to report that catching it early seems to have cured it in our son!
It’s also worth noting that our son’s best friend who lives on our street also just got Lyme Disease. It’s really prevalent this season. Please be aware of the tick threat.
Lyme Disease Prevention Tips
Our family has always been extra cautious about the tick threat. We are and were diligent about checking our kids and dogs every time they go outside. So, nothing you can do to prevent Lyme Disease is bullet-proof.
I also do not pretend to be an expert on Lyme Disease (although I am a helluva Googler). But, here’s some notes on how to combat Lyme Disease and how to manage Lyme Disease when you’re diagnosed:
- Despite my note that it wasn’t a fail-safe for us, it is always best to check your children and dogs every time they come inside from being outdoors.
- Use insect repellents. 20% or higher DEET is required. (Can anyone in my network weigh in on this? What’s worse? The chemicals or not repelling the ticks & mosquitos that carry disease? Post in the comments if you have thoughts on this!)
- When doing body checks for ticks, check hidden warm places. They like to hide in folds and hair, all places that can make it more difficult to unearth the little buggers. (Women – check around your bra straps!)
- Cover up while you’re outdoors! If you’re hiking, consider long pants tucked into socks.
- If you see a tick on yourself or a family member – human or furry – remove it immediately with tweezers. Pull carefully and try not to squeeze too hard. Apply antiseptic to the bite area.
- Clean up your outdoor spaces. Weed, clean brush, keep wood in sunny areas, etc. Don’t give the ticks comfy homes everywhere!
- You can get Lyme disease more than once, so don’t assume you’re immune if you’ve had it once. Be more vigilant than ever, preferably!
- Always trust a mother’s intuition! (Or, yay for anxiety and worrying! ha.)
Here’s what a deer tick looks like:
Lyme Disease Management Tips for those on Doxycycline
A thank you and shout out to our friend (medical practitioner) Pam Gupta, who advised on the first two of the below tips, which helped us manage the Dude’s antibiotic side effects! For those prescribed doxycycline, the below tips are useful!
- Take a daily probiotic to avoid stomach upset-related side effects
- Wear protective clothing and use sunscreen while outside to avoid sun sensitivity
- Take the prescription with or immediately following a meal
- Make sure other prescriptions you are on are compatible with doxy
- Don’t lie down for at least an hour after you take doxycycline, and always take it with plenty of water as directed by your doctor. This will help avoid an extremely unpleasant side effect: esophageal irritation and ulceration, which causes pain or difficulty in swallowing, and a feeling of heartburn (Source: eHow)
- For adults, caffeine and alcohol could cause major stomach upset
- If you experience hives, difficulty breathing, or other allergic symptoms, cease taking immediately and contact your doctor.
Lyme Disease Resources
Here are a few places to start. Speak to a medical practitioner above all else!
- Pennsylvanians: Go here to the PA Lyme Resource Network.
- “The best private organization-based site that can be recommended to patients for education on Lyme disease is that of the American Lyme Disease Foundation.”
- The Lyme Disease Association
- LymeDisease.org is the eminent authority and offers a great amount of resources that seem legitimate on their website.
Good luck preventing and treating!