Why am I writing a story about a little girl that was paralyzed by a tick? The answer is simple. While pet owners are aware that any adventure with their dog in the woods, forest, or rural area is call for a flea and tick check when you get home people without pets don’t necessarily think about these parasites. Just like dogs people can have flea allergy dermititis but unless you live somewhere that is infested with fleas it is unlikely a flea could cause any major harm to a person (though infestation of a home could cause anemia and therefore would be a concern in a young baby or an elderly adult).
Ticks on the other hand can be just as dangerous to people as they potentially can be to dogs or cats. There is even more danger from ticks this year as it was a relatively warm winter in many parts of the country so we did not see the normal dying off of ticks we would normally.
A two-year old girl suffering from a worsening onset of paralysis was cured this month by an Albany Medical Center physician who recognized the girl’s unusual condition from a case she had observed only once during her training more than five years ago. After a brief clinical examination and a review of numerous medical tests that failed to identify the condition, Karen Powers, M.D., assistant professor of pediatric neurology, asked to check the girl’s hair, where she found the suspected source of the problem: a dog tick that can cause paralysis and even death, but is rarely found in the area of the country the little girl was living in. Within hours of removing the tick from the little girl’s scalp she had recovered and will have no lasting impact from the incident.
In known tick-infested areas, the best protection is to avoid contact with soil, leaf litter and vegetation during the the warm months. If you are going for a hike in the woods or to a forest stream to play here are some ways to protect your entire family against ticks:
• Wearing light-colored clothing with a tight weave to spot ticks easily.
• Wearing enclosed shoes, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Tuck pant legs into socks or boots and shirt into pants.
• Checking clothes and any exposed skin frequently for ticks while outdoors.
• Using insect repellent.
• Staying on cleared, well-traveled trails. Walk in the center of trails. Avoid dense woods and bushy areas.
• Keeping long hair tied back, especially when gardening.
• Bathing/showering as soon as possible after going indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that may be on you.
• Conducting a final, full-body tick check at the end of the day (including children and pets), and removing ticks promptly.