Lyme disease
Lyme disease

Lyme disease is an illness carried by ticks. People who live or spend time in heavily-wooded, grassy areas are more likely to get Lyme disease. There is some doubt whether this illness occurs in New Zealand, so, at this time, you are likely to get Lyme disease as the result of travelling to northern hemisphere countries where Lyme disease exists.

What causes Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. Deer ticks, which bite animals and humans, spread the disease from animals to humans.

Is Lyme disease serious?

If left untreated, Lyme disease can be serious, causing chronic joint inflammation, neurological symptoms, cognitive defects, and heart irregularities.

Can I prevent Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is best prevented by wearing protective clothing when spending time in wooded or grassy areas. Wear long sleeves and pants. If you find a tick on your child, make sure that you remove it quickly and properly. As transmission of the bacteria usually takes about 36 hours, it is really important to check your child’s body for ticks every day.

How do I know if my child has Lyme disease?

A tick bite looks like a small bull’s eye. A few days after getting bitten, your child may develop a rash, most likely at the site of the bite. Your child might also experience flu-like symptoms such as a fever, chills and body aches.

How do I treat Lyme disease?

Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics. Minor symptoms may be treated with a course of oral antibiotics for up to three weeks. Serious infections may need intravenous antibiotic treatment for up to 28 days.

Should I call the doctor?

If your child has been bitten by a tick and shows signs of Lyme disease, call your doctor right away. Even if your child seems better after a few days, you should still call the doctor. Left untreated, Lyme disease can cause lifelong health problems and may lead to meningitis and hepatitis.

What you need to know about Lyme disease

  • Lyme disease is rare, if not nonexistent, in Australia.
  • Lyme disease is caused when ticks transport the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi from animals to humans by biting.
  • Lyme disease is serious and should be treated by a doctor.

Find more relevant articles and information about Lyme disease


Written by Rebecca Stigall for Kidspot, New Zealand’s parenting resource for family health. Sources include Better Health Channel, NSW Health and Health Insite.

Last revised: Tuesday, 12 January 2010

This article contains general information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.