Living in an area where Lyme disease is common, I’d heard a lot about it. Despite all the chatter, I never worried until I was diagnosed. Then I panicked. But I wasn’t scared for myself; I was terrified I’d pass the disease to the infant I was breastfeeding.
About Lyme disease
According to the American Lyme Disease Foundation (ALDF), Lyme disease is the nation’s most common anthropod-borne illness, with over 150,000 cases reported to the CDC in the last three decades. Caused by a spriochete bacterium carried by black-legged ticks, it’s rampant in parts of the northeast and the mid west because these areas have lots of deer and white-footed mice, the ticks’ preferred hosts.
Symptoms of Lyme disease
People get Lyme disease after being bitten by an infected tick. Initial signs include an expanding red rash that can resemble a bull’s-eye or be solid and flu-like symptoms. If left untreated, neurological and cardiac disorders can develop. When it’s caught early, Lyme is almost always cured with antibiotics. When there’s a delay in diagnosis, it can be more difficult to treat.
My experience with Lyme disease
When I went to remove a tick that had bitten me behind my knee, the head broke off. Within 24 hours, a hard, ugly knot formed. A few days later, there was a blurry, vaguely lopsided bull’s-eye around the site of the bite.
If it had just been me, I might’ve stalled a bit before going to my doctor. But I was breastfeeding an infant. The thought of passing Lyme to him was scary enough to send me trotting off to the physician.
After examining the bite and the rash, my doctor diagnosed Lyme. While there is a blood test for Lyme, it’s not reliable for the first month of infection, according to the ALDF. Since early treatment is best, doctors in areas where Lyme is common diagnose on evidence of a tick bite and symptoms without bothering with the blood tests.
According to both my doctor and WebMD, there’s no evidence of Lyme disease being transmitted in breast milk. My doctor did confer with my child’s pediatrician to find an antibiotic that would be safe for both of us, so I was able to continue nursing.
After two weeks of antibiotics, my brush with Lyme disease was over. Thankfully, my baby and I both came through without any lingering illness.
Learning from Lyme disease
Tick bites are virtually inevitable when you enjoy the outdoors like my family does, but we now have a healthy respect for Lyme disease. Since it takes 36 to 48 hours for a tick to pass on Lyme, we each do daily tick checks. When someone is bitten, we keep a close eye on the bite and watch out for any flu-like symptoms. If there’s any doubt at all, we head to the doctor for help.
If you think you may have Lyme disease, visit your doctor. Seeking treatment early gives you the best chance of feeling better fast.
“Lyme Disease” — American Lyme Disease Foundation
“Arthropod Information” — University of Arizona Center for Insect Science Education Outreach
“Lyme Disease During Pregnancy and Nursing – Topic Overview” — WebMD
“Lyme Disease” — Medline Plus