Mom warns parents to be aware of symptoms of “tick paralysis”
The warm weather is arriving, so is the time of year parents begin to worry about ticks again. If you live near a woody area, chances are you are on high alert during the warmer months. Deer ticks can be infected with the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, which is usually what parents are most afraid of. But it turns out there is another, very scary condition that can be brought on by ticks.
When Amanda Lewis’ daughter Evelyn “started acting weird” around bedtime, she knew something was a little off. “She didn’t want to stand up after her bath to get into her pajamas. I helped her and got her in bed,” Lewis writes in a now viral Facebook post. “She was a little fussy last night and I ended up sleeping in bed with her all night.”
By morning, Evelyn could barely walk. They took this video to send to friends and family to see if anyone could offer some insight into what was going on. Then they headed to the ER.
They were seen quickly. The ER doctor told her that over the last 15 years he’d seen maybe seven or eight children who exhibited the symptoms Evelyn was presenting, and more than likely she had a tick. They combed carefully through her hair and found one. “This condition is called tick paralysis. It can affect dogs also and can be fatal,” Lewis writes. “I’m glad we took her in when we did and that it wasn’t something worse and that we found it before it got worse.”
Unlike in cases of Lyme disease, tick paralysis is not caused by an infectious organism. The illness is caused by a neurotoxin produced in the tick’s salivary gland. After a prolonged attachment, the engorged tick transmits the toxin to its host. “In humans, tick paralysis is most likely to be seen in children. The symptoms in humans are similar to the clinical signs in dogs. About two thirds of human cases are seen in young females. The tick bites are most often found at the head and there at the transition of hair and neck. The clinical presentation appears as typical ascending flaccid paralysis,” explains the site, Companion Vector Borne Diseases.
CVBD explains that the symptoms first present as irritability, fatigue, and restlessness. “During the next 12 to 24 hours the muscles innervated by facial nerves become weak,” the site explains. “Without removal of the tick, finally the respiratory muscles will fail and the patient will die of respiratory failure.”
“Evelyn is doing much better,” Lewis explains in an update to her post. “It took her until the next morning to start acting like herself again. She is now pretty much completely back to her feisty little self. She complains a lot about her head itching but otherwise she’s just fine.
“My husband and I are still in shock that this happened to our baby girl and I’m glad we were able to spread some awareness about this. It’s not terribly common for this to happen but it’s good to be aware that if your children or pets start having weakness in their limbs to look for a tick! The doctor told us that the type of tick that was found on her does not typically carry lyme disease (dog tick) but we are keeping a close eye on her anyway.”
“Evelyn is back to her feisty little self,” Lewis tells Scary Mommy.”The only evidence of her scary incident is a tiny barely visible little scab from the tick bite that I’m sure won’t even be there in a couple more days. She was in the hospital last Saturday for a total of only a couple of hours. The doctor monitored her for a bit after the tick was removed then said she could finish recovering at home. It was a really scary day for us, but we’re just so relieved that the doctor immediately knew what to look for and that our baby girl is healthy and back to normal.”
The lesson? Always trust your gut when it comes to your child. If you know something is off, take them to a doctor or ER immediately, like the Lewis’ did. And with tick season upon us, routinely check your kids when they come in from play.
“We never ever would have imagined that our story would spread the way it has,” Lewis adds.”But maybe because we went through this, other parents and pet owners will know to watch for ticks. I had no idea that this could happen. Lucky for us we got her to the hospital when we did and had the doctor we did.”
Kids Health recommends that parents can help prevent kids from being exposed to ticks by “making sure they wear protective clothing and apply insect repellant containing DEET, especially when playing in grassy or wooded areas where ticks live.”