When warmer weather arrives, so does tick season, and the threat of Lyme disease. With Suffolk County in the heart of one of the country’s highest risk areas, parents need to be aware of the risks of tick-borne disease in children. Dr. Saul Hymes, Director of the Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Center at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, offers this advice.
What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection transmitted by the bite of the Ixodes scapularis tick. In acute infections, it can cause days of headache, fevers, rash and muscle aches. More severe cases can progress to a Bell’s Palsy (facial paralysis) or meningitis. Untreated, it can lead to heart problems, arthritis and even long-term neurologic and/or rheumatologic conditions. Other illnesses carried by ticks local to Long Island include Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Babesiosis, Anaplasmosis and Ehrlichiosis, Tularemia and STARI.
Is Lyme disease a problem for children?
Lyme disease is a growing problem for Suffolk County, with as many as 5,000 to 6,000 cases a year. Unfortunately awareness is low and many cases go unreported. When Lyme disease goes undiagnosed, especially in children, there can be serious complications. However, if treatment is started early, it is often extremely effective.
What can I do for my child if I am worried about ticks and Lyme disease?
The most important thing is to practice ongoing prevention. Your child should always wear long pants and long sleeves while outside in grass or wooded areas, and you should apply insect/tick repellant containing 20 to 30 percent DEET. If your child is bitten by a tick, it should be removed promptly with tweezers.
When should my child see a pediatrician about Lyme disease?
Fever, rash, headache and muscle aches can be symptoms of early Lyme disease infection. If you notice any of these symptoms, you should contact your child’s doctor. If Lyme disease or other tick-borne infections are suspected, you should consult an expert.
Where can I find experts in Lyme Disease?
At the Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Center at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. This new center, staffed by members of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, provides multidisciplinary, comprehensive diagnosis, treatment and management of Lyme and other diseases transmitted by ticks. All of our infectious disease pediatricians are board-certified with expertise in treating Lyme disease, and are up to date on all relevant tick disease-related treatments and research. They remain current on the latest guidelines, and bring a level of experience to their patients that can make a difference in both common and hard-to-diagnose cases.
How does Stony Brook's Lyme Disease Center work with children?
If symptoms of Lyme disease are suspected, our team can perform a complete medical history, appropriate screenings and laboratory tests, a physical exam, tick identification, follow-up management and referrals to other pediatric medical experts, if needed. Most importantly, we take time with each child. We understand that every case is different, and symptoms show up in children differently so we help you sort it all out. We also keep in close contact with your family doctor or referring physician so that everyone who cares for your child stays in touch.
What else does the Center offer?
As long as there has been Lyme disease, Stony Brook has been involved. When the symptoms of Lyme disease began emerging in the population, the test to confirm Lyme disease was invented by a Stony Brook microbiologist. Because Suffolk County has been an epicenter for the disease since the beginning, Stony Brook has dedicated resources to understanding the disease process, investigating causes and treatments, and developing evidence-based best practices. Lyme disease, quite simply, is one of our areas of expertise. In fact, our Lyme laboratory has such high-quality testing that even hospitals in the city send their samples to us. It’s also important to note that because this is a children’s hospital-based center, the Lyme Disease team has access to the full resources of Stony Brook. This includes specialists from the Pediatric Rheumatology, Pediatric Orthopedics, Pediatric Cardiology and Pediatric Neurology Departments, along with sophisticated diagnostic technology, neuropsychiatric evaluations, social work and other supporting services. We are able to deliver a comprehensive approach in one place, close to home.
For more information about Stony Brook Children's, call (631) 444-KIDS.
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