Conditions + Treatments

Treatments for Lyme Disease in Children

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Contact the Division of Infectious Diseases

At Boston Children's Hospital, we view the diagnosis as a starting point: Having identified your child's condition, we're able to begin the process of treating her, so that we may ultimately return her to good health. 

Lyme disease is most often treated with antibiotics, such as doxycycline, amoxicillin or cefuroxime. If your child has been diagnosed early, she'll probably take antibiotics by mouth for 2 to 3 weeks. Longer courses are prescribed for children who were diagnosed later, or who – for whatever reason – don't respond to the first course of treatment (often because the full dose has not been taken).

Please keep in mind that it's important that your child has been prescribed antibiotics for Lyme disease, it's crucial that she finish the full course– even if she's feeling better and the rash is gone, she needs the full dosage to make sure that the infection has been treated properly.

If your child doesn't respond to oral antibiotics, or if the Lyme disease is affecting her central nervous system, her doctor may arrange for her to receive antibiotics intravenously (through an IV). Most often, these children aren't hospitalized – in many cases, we can arrange for a nurse to come to your home to administer the IV, or else teach you or another family member how to do it. Doctors very rarely prescribe a course of antibiotics that lasts longer than 30 days. 

Is there a vaccine for Lyme disease?

There used to be, but it was taken off the market in 2002. No vaccine for Lyme disease is currently available.

What's the long-term outlook for my child?

If Lyme disease is caught and treated early, the prognosis is excellent – most children will make a full recovery. If the infection has spread throughout her body, it may cause more serious issues, such as problems with her nervous system or heart. A very small percentage of people with Lyme arthritis go on to develop chronic arthritis.

Many children with Lyme disease go on to experience what's called “post-infectious syndrome.” This is a condition that occurs after many bacterial and viral infections, including mononucleosis and hepatitis A.

There's a wide range of symptoms that your child could experience from post-infectious syndrome, but some of the more common ones include:

  • feeling fatigued
  • weakness
  • joint aches and pains
  • shooting pains
  • headaches
  • difficulty sleeping
  • problems concentrating

How is post-infectious disease syndrome treated? 

Since post-infectious disease syndrome is not itself caused by an infectious agent (it follows an infection caused by an infectious agent), doctors generally don't prescribe antibiotics. Most often, different treatment modalities are used, which may include:

  • keeping to a set sleep schedule
  • exercise
  • acupuncture
  • biofeedback
  • physical therapy
  • anti-inflammatory drugs to help with aches and pains

How long does post-infectious syndrome last?  

Each child is different, but it's not uncommon for symptoms of post-infectious syndrome to linger for months, or even years, and they can be made worse by stress or other illness. But most children do make a full recovery.

Follow-up

If your child has developed Lyme-related complications, she may be seen by—and asked to follow up with—another Children's specialist, such as a rheumatologist, cardiologist or neurologist. The wide range of pediatric expertise at Children's means that your child can receive coordinated care for any lingering issues after her Lyme disease has been treated.

Coping and support

We know how difficult a diagnosis of Lyme disease can be, both for your child and for your whole family. That's why our physicians are focused on family-centered care: From your first visit, you'll work with a team of professionals who are committed to supporting all of your family's physical and psychosocial needs. Here are some of the ways in which we can help:  

Patient education: Our nurses will be on hand to walk you through your child's treatment and help answer any questions you may have —What symptoms might my child have? What do we do next? They will also reach out to you by phone, continuing the care and support you received while at Boston Children's.

Parent to parent: Want to talk with someone whose child has been diagnosed with Lyme disease? We may be able to put you in touch with other families who can share their experience.

Faith-based support: If you are in need of spiritual support, we will help connect you with the Boston Children's chaplaincy. Our program includes nearly a dozen clergy representing Episcopal, Jewish, Lutheran, Muslim, Roman Catholic, Unitarian and United Church of Christ traditions who will listen to you, pray with you and help you observe your own faith practices during your hospital experience.

Social work and mental health professionals: Our social workers and mental health clinicians have helped many other families in your situation. We can offer counseling and assistance with issues such as coping with your child's diagnosis, stresses relating to coping with illness and dealing with financial difficulties.

On our For Patients and Families site, you can read all you need to know about:

  • getting to Boston Children's
  • accommodations
  • navigating the hospital experience
  • resources that are available for your family

Alternative medicine

When your child is facing an illness like Lyme disease, it's understandable that you may want to explore all the treatment options, even those that aren't considered part of conventional medicine. Such treatments — generally known as alternative or complementary medicine — encompass things like acupuncture and special diets or dietary supplements, and some people with arthritis do seem to benefit from them.

However, there's little research showing how effective or safe most of these treatments are, and no evidence that any are as effective in fighting Lyme disease as the drugs your child's doctor may prescribe. If you're interested in exploring an alternative treatment for Lyme disease, be sure to talk it over with your child's doctor first and — if he agrees the treatment may have value and is not harmful — always keep him up to date on how your child is coming along.

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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