Paralysis—An Unusual Tick-Borne Problem
Written By: Jodi Ralston
Ticks are trouble. The problems they cause range from an itchy, red rash upon removal to diseases to paralysis in extreme cases. According to a recent story in The Washington Post, a five-year-old Mississippi girl worried her mother when she had difficulty standing and speaking. She was rushed to the hospital, where the culprit was determined to be none other than a tick.
According to American Lyme Disease Foundation, five species of North American ticks can cause paralysis: the deer tick, dog tick, Rocky Mountain tick, wood tick, and Lone Star tick. In particular, female ticks are the offender, for when they are full of blood and eggs, they can produce a neurotoxin in their saliva, with the highest dose occurring generally between the fifth and seventh day of attachment. Difficulty walking and talking aren’t the first symptoms victims notice—fatigue, muscular pain, and numbness in the legs are. Symptoms usually lessen rapidly once the entire tick is removed. The victims of the toxin are mostly animals, including livestock such cows and sheep or domestic pets. However, young children can be affected like the child from Mississippi, although that is rare.
So what can you do minimize your risk of tick trouble? Well, it is said proper preparation prevents poor performance, but in the world of ticks, proper prevention prevents predatory performance. Start by knowing a little about the habits of the tick. They live off of blood, so they are always on the hunt for a host. Ticks find their prey through their odor, breath, heat, moisture, or vibrations. So basically, if you are alive, they can find you. Some species are strong hunters and stalk areas where their prey hangs out. Also, ticks are patient. Many species cling to leaves and tall foliage, stretching out a pair of legs to latch on to you as you walk by. Avoiding tall grass or moving your lawn chairs occasionally may trip them up.
Ticks will not necessarily bite into the first bit of flesh they find, so you may be able to feel them crawling and remove them before they become embedded. But it never hurts to check your skin and clothing after you come in from the outside. Don't forget to do the same for your pets and their bedding.
Finally, “bug sprays” applied to humans and animals may help repel ticks, but a hungry tick won't care. Sometimes the best tick prevention is population management—that is, having a professional service like Bugs and Blades treat your property. Our service reduces ticks and other outdoor pests by 85 to 95%, and we can apply every 2 to 5 weeks depending on the product used. Products are non-toxic and children friendly. Just remember, if you live within Fairfield or the three Ws—Weston, Westport, and Wilton—we can help you with your tick problem.