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Is Tick Paralysis in Southeastern Massachusetts Real or a Facebook Hoax?

In Southeastern Massachusetts we are all too familiar with the damage that can be caused by ticks. Most commonly, we talk about tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis and Rocky Mountain Spotted fever. But did you know ticks can cause another very serious problem in rare cases, and it is not a virus or bacteria?

Is Tick Paralysis Real?

Yes. It absolutely is. The CDC cites it at the bottom of their tick page, saying it is caused by a toxin in tick saliva. They say that once the tick is removed, the symptoms usually subside within 24 hours.

Tick Paralysis Symptoms

Tick paralysis can happen in humans and dogs. Human cases are most likely to be seen in children, in fact two-thirds of human cases are seen in girls. The Companion Vector-Borne Diseases CVBD even cites that the tick bites are most often found on the head or neck. Symptoms of tick paralysis start with ascending flaccid paralysis. After the initial symptoms of numbness, tingling, restlessness, irritability, fatigue and muscle pain, neurological symptoms usually start with paralysis of the feet and legs. Over the next 12-24 hours facial muscles become weak. Without removing the tick, the respiratory muscles can fail and cause the patient to pass away. Rarely, the illness can also cause focal muscle paralysis including facial muscles, arm muscles, pupillary dilation, and acute cerebellar syndrome.

Tick paralysis is often confused with Guillain-Barre syndrome. The main diagnostic difference is that sensory findings are absent in tick paralysis but not Guillain-Barre.

If you suspect tick paralysis, it is vital that you find and remove the tick with safe tick removal methods. See a doctor right away for help in managing the symptoms and close monitoring.

Prevention is key in tick-borne diseases and tick paralysis. Avoiding tick bites is still the best method of prevention. If you’re like us, you would be horrified to have this happen to your child, but you still want them to get outside and be active. Lower the tick population at your home, so you can have peace-of-mind. Contact Mosquito Squad of Southeastern Massachusetts to learn more about our season-long tick treatment programs that are up to 90% effective.