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Should Your Child Get the Lyme Vaccine?

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD

Turn on the news or car radio these days and chances are that you'll hear something about the vaccine to prevent Lyme disease. Now that the warmer weather is here, your child will be spending so much time outdoors, so you may be wondering whether getting the vaccine would be a good idea for your child.

The Food and Drug Administration recently approved LYMErix, but the vaccine is currently indicated only for people ages 15 to 70. It's intended to provide protection for those who live or work in wooded or grassy areas where ticks that carry Lyme disease are prevalent. The vaccine also may be recommended for people traveling to high-risk areas during times of the year when transmission risk is highest.

The vaccine requires three shots that are given over the course of a year, and it's 75% effective in adults after the third injection.

Researchers are currently studying the Lyme vaccine in younger children, so the age limit may soon be lowered. Talk to your child's doctor for updates on the availability of this vaccine if you live in an area where Lyme disease is prevalent and your child is at risk.

In the meantime, follow these tips to prevent Lyme disease:

  • Wear enclosed shoes or boots, long-sleeved shirts, and long pants. Tuck pants into shoes or boots to prevent ticks from crawling up legs.
  • Wear light-colored clothing to help you see ticks easily.
  • Keep long hair pulled back or placed in a cap for added protection.
  • When outside, don't sit on the ground.
  • While outdoors, frequently check yourself and your child for ticks.
  • After each outing, check yourself, your child, and your pet for ticks. Wash all clothes after leaving tick-infested areas, and thoroughly bathe and shampoo your child to eliminate any unseen ticks.

If you use insect repellents containing DEET (N,N-diethyltoluamide), choose one with no more than a 10% concentration of DEET. Although 10% DEET has limited effectiveness in repelling IXODES ticks, to use a greater concentration may be harmful to your child. Use repellents sparingly on children, never on babies.

Keep ticks away from your house by keeping lawns mowed and trimmed; clearing brush, litter, and tall grass; and stacking woodpiles off the ground. In addition, you can have a licensed professional spray your yard with insecticide in May and September to prevent ticks from reproducing.

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: April 2001