As summer comes and the weather gets warmer, it’s hard to resist the great outdoors. While we might feel safe in our manicured parks and trails, there are many critters around that don’t have our best interest in mind.
With the rise in Lyme disease awareness, we’re becoming increasingly aware of the dangers of ticks. Specialists are also warning that America and Canada will both experience a true tick invasion this summer due to two consecutive warm winters as well as other environmental factors (1,2).
Additionally, public health groups are speaking out about the Powassan Virus, which affects the nervous system and can be transmitted from a tick in as little as 15 minutes (3).
The Dangers of Ticks
Ticks are particularly fond of children, who spend plenty of time outside in their summer clothes, which give ticks easy access to their skin.
For one Oregon couple, the thought of ticks never even crossed their mind. That is, until a tick bite left their 3-year-old partially paralyzed.
“Evelyn started acting a little weird last night around bedtime. She didn’t want to stand up after her bath to get into her pajamas. I helped her and got her in bed. She was a little fussy last night and I ended up sleeping in bed with her all night,” Amanda Lewis wrote in a Facebook post (4).
As her symptoms got worse, Evelyn was brought to the ER. Her parents worried that she might be suffering from cancer or a brain tumor.
Luckily, Evelyn’s doctor recognized her condition after studying the symptoms of other children her age throughout the last 15 years. He suggested she might be suffering from a tick bite.
He found the tick on her head, removed it, and monitored her as she recovered. The next day, she felt much better and only complained of itching on the side of the bite.
Tick paralysis can affect children and pets and begins with the paralysis of lower extremities. The paralysis will gradually progress upwards to the chest, face, and arms. Without removal of the tick, the respiratory muscles will fail and the patient will likely die of respiratory failure (5).
If your child or pet experiences the symptoms shown in the video, seek emergency medical assistance immediately.
The Correct Way To Remove Ticks
Many health sites recommend using peppermint oil to remove ticks from your skin.
The problem with this method is that ticks in distress are more likely to salivate into your skin, spreading disease.
Western Connecticut State University’s Dr. Neeta Connally explained to The Daily Mail:“drowning ticks in substances like peppermint oil can aggravate them, causing the spread of disease.”(6)
In fact, ‘Using solutions such as alcohol, aftershave, oils/butter, paraffin, petroleum jelly or nail polish to try to suffocate a tick may cause it to regurgitate (vomit) saliva and gut contents as it tries to disengage its mouth parts and escape the irritating solution,” warns Borreliosis and Associated Diseases Awareness (BADA) UK (7).
“We don’t want to agitate the tick in any way that is going to make it salivate more and thereby more likely to transmit anything into you that may make you sick,” confirms Dr. Connally.
Incorrectly removing a tick can also cause the tick’s mouth parts to be left behind in the skin, which may result in a localized infection. These bits may not be visible to the naked eye.
Instead, use fine-tip tweezers (precision tweezers) or a tick removal tool to remove the tick. Do not use forceps or eyebrow tweezers and they may squeeze the tick and cause regurgitation.