Testing & Diagnosis for Lyme Disease in Children

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Contact the Division of Infectious Diseases

The first step in treating your child is forming an accurate and complete diagnosis, and since Lyme disease can resemble many other conditions, it’s important that your child be seen by an experienced physician. Your child’s doctor may: 

  • perform a physical exam, looking for evidence of the erythema migrans rash
  • ask questions about any activities that may have brought your child into contact with ticks, if there’s been no known tick bite
  • order lab tests in order to rule out other conditions

Testing for Lyme disease

It is possible to test for Lyme disease, but the tests aren’t very reliable in the early stages of infection, since it takes time for your child’s immune system to produce the response that the tests look for. That means that your child’s test may come back negative, but she may still have LD.

If your child has started – or even finished – treatment for Lyme disease, she may still test positive for it. That’s because there are still antibodies in her blood that the test identifies as fighting LD, even though the Lyme bacterium is no longer present, and your child is no longer infected.

Since testing in the early stages – when the rash first appears – is unreliable, doctors diagnose Lyme disease based on the presence of physical symptoms (such as the rash) plus known or possible exposure to ticks carrying the bacteria. Research is underway to develop and improve methods for diagnosing Lyme disease.

After we complete all necessary tests, our experts meet to review and discuss what they have learned about your child's condition. Then we will meet with you and your family to discuss the results and outline the best treatment options.

We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO

Boston Children's Hospital 300 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115 617-355-6000 | 800-355-7944

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