A Systems Approach to Pediatric Lyme Disease

Physicians treating a child with a tick-borne disease should consider the child’s family and environment as an integral part of treatment planning.

An illness like Lyme disease can have negative effects on both a child and their family. Disturbingly, aspects of family life that support the heath and well-being of all family members – including family cohesion, parental availability, social and financial resources, and maternal mental health – can be adversely affected by the presence of a child with chronic illness such as systemic Lyme disease.

The confusion surrounding diagnosis and treatment of tick-borne infections adds to the stress of parents trying to find adequate and effective care for their child while defending a Lyme diagnosis to family and community members who are misinformed about tick-borne disease. Many medical and education professionals underestimate (or are ignorant of) the multi-faceted impact of tick-borne infections. Emotional and cognitive problems and difficulty with academic performance may not be addressed in medical appointments, and these symptoms can have long-term consequences for a child and their family.

Parents may require support making dietary changes, organizing medications, and following treatment protocols. The financial and logistical implications of Lyme disease on families can be significant. Many families need help understanding this, and planning for their child’s care and convalescence.

Physicians focusing on the medical treatment of Lyme disease may not be able to directly support these aspects of care, but they can establish collaborative relationships with mental health providers, nutritionists, family coaches, school professionals, financial planners, and non-profit organizations who can help create a multi-dimensional approach to treating a child’s Lyme disease.

Considering a child’s environment, family, resources, and circumstances in treatment planning can tremendously improve the outcome for a child with Lyme disease, as well as reduce collateral damage on their family. Amidst the vibrant discussions about scientific research, medication, and testing, must also address the critical need for collaborative and comprehensive treatment.