GRENADA, MS (Mississippi News Now) - A Grenada mother urges parents to thoroughly check their children for ticks after her daughter was diagnosed with tick paralysis.
Jessica Griffin said she had no idea anything was wrong with her 5-year-old daughter Kailyn Kirk until Wednesday morning.
"We had a T-ball game the night before and she was perfectly fine," Griffin said. "We came home, took a bath, washed her hair and everything and I never saw the tick. She woke up yesterday morning to get ready to go to daycare, and as soon as her feet hit the floor, she fell. She would try to stand and walk but would continue to fall so I thought her legs were just asleep."
Griffin went on to brush Kailyn's hair and that's when she noticed the tick on her scalp.
"I went to brush her hair to put it in a ponytail and noticed she could barely talk," Griffin said. "When I pulled her hair back, that's when I saw the tick. I immediately called my husband who is in Iraq, freaking out over the phone asking what could be going on, and he told me that I needed to put the tick in a ziplock bag and take it with me straight to the E.R. and that it was more than likely tick paralysis."
With the tick in tow, Kailyn was taken to University of Mississippi Medical Center where she underwent bloodwork and a CT scan on her head.
After the tests were completed, Griffin said doctors diagnosed Kailyn with tick paralysis.
Griffin said Kailyn's pediatrician told her the tick sucked so much of kailyn's blood, it grew in size and released a toxin.
Dr. Ben Brock, assistant professor of medicine at UMMC, said tick paralysis can happen when a female tick bites someone on the scalp or at the nape of the neck.
“The cause of tick paralysis is not entirely understood,” said Brock. “It may be due to a toxin the tick injects into the host. It doesn’t happen immediately, so it requires the tick to be attached to the host for 4-7 days before symptoms develop.”
Brock said bites on other areas of the body don’t tend to cause tick paralysis and the diagnosis is more common in girls because they tend to have longer hair, allowing the tick to hide on the scalp or neck for a longer period without being noticed.
Brock said tick paralysis can often be misdiagnosed for other diseases such as polio or Guillain-Barre syndrome.
“The differences with those diseases is the onset is a lot slower, so weeks to months,” Brock said. “Tick paralysis is very sudden. Within 24 hours you have rapid onset of paralysis. Tick paralysis is treated by removing the tick, there’s no particular medicine you use to treat tick paralysis. Removing the tick results in a very quick recovery within 24 hours.”
Brock said there are several species of ticks that can cause tick paralysis and typically, there are not long-term complications from the disease.
The warmer it gets, you may notice more ticks in the area, Brock said ticks thrive in warm conditions.
He said DEET is a good option to combat ticks and can commonly be found in mosquito repellent.
“If you’re going outdoors, covering yourself in DEET can prevent tick bites,” Brock said. “Consider wearing long sleeves. While in the summertime that can be uncomfortable, light-colored clothing can be helpful because you can see the ticks on your clothing and they’re less attracted to you. Also, you can consider tucking your pants into your socks.”
You can also take preventative measures with the landscaping at your home.
Brock suggests creating a border made of gravel or wood shavings to separate wild areas from play areas.
If you’ve been bitten by a tick, Brock said it’s best to remove it immediately.
“You should not squeeze the tick, burn it with matches or cover it with nail polish,” Brock said. “You should use tweezers to try and remove the entire tick and that includes removing the mouthparts. Squeezing the tick can force its contents into your skin if the mouth parts are still attached”
Brock said infections from tick bites are rare and said that Mississippi’s tick population differs from ticks located in other parts of the country.
However, if you develop symptoms such as headaches, fever or a rash after getting bitten by a tick, you should seek medical attention.
As for little Kailyn, Griffin said she has recovered and went back to running around and playing as she usually does.
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