With kids, it’s never JUST Lyme.

by Jacqui van Teulingen

Speaking at the LivLyme Summit in Colorado, Dr Debby Hamilton a paediatrician with experience in primary care, integrative medicine and research, shared her experiences with children and Lyme disease. Dr Hamilton presented a series of case studies of her paediatric patients.

Commencing her presentation, Dr Hamilton reminded us that of the 300,000 cases of Lyme disease captured by the CDC each year in the USA, a quarter of those are children. That’s 75,000 paediatric cases per year or 205 per day. In Australia we estimate the number of cases per year to be approx. 22,600; if a quarter of those were paediatric cases, we’d have around 5,640 kids contracting an Australian version of Lyme like illness each year. For Australian kids the situation is made worse by the lack of diagnostic knowledge which in turn leads to delayed diagnosis and a chronic form of infection.

Dr Hamilton talked about the signs that doctors should be looking for in paediatric cases, not those acute cases where children present with a recent tick bite and corresponding rash or bite artefact, but those cases that cause puzzlement due to long term illness. The 3-case studies Dr Hamilton presented included children who were previously diagnosed with other ailments or not diagnosed at all after a lengthy untreated illness. Her cases included a 9-year-old with a 18 month history of dizziness and headaches, another with a 2 year history of headaches and a severe case of postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) each characterised by extreme fatigue and tiredness, all overlapping symptoms of Lyme disease. The third case involved a 5-year-old with sensorineural hearing loss. Upon full investigation, Dr Hamilton finds that there are considerable infections (EBV, HHV6, Mycoplasma etc) present in children with chronic cases of Lyme disease because their immune systems are so depleted.

The research showed that Lyme is never JUST Lyme and she cited the higher percentages of children who are diagnosed with PANDAS, ADHD, ASD, hearing loss, POTS etc also with raging cases of Lyme disease. With statistics from Vojdani and Duncan, she presented data on the association between tick-borne infections, Lyme borreliosis and autism spectrum disorders. It showed around 25% of children with autism spectrum disorder in the US are positive for tick-borne disease.

Dr Hamilton also talked about congenital Lyme disease, that is where a mother with Lyme disease or a Lyme like illness has passed on the infection, through her placenta, to her baby. The concept of gestational manifestations of Lyme is well reported in the literature especially the impacts on the fetus.

Like most parents, I’m driven by the quest for knowledge about the long-term prognosis for children born with Lyme disease and asked the question about whether a research group anywhere in the world were conducting a longitudinal study on children born with congenital Lyme disease.

Shamefully, there was silence.