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How a tick bite caused a 5-year-old girl to wake up paralyzed one morning

A Mississippi mom was frightened when her 5-year-old daughter could not stand or speak when she was woken up from school one morning. The girl had a tick on her head. Doctors later diagnosed her with a rare condition called tick paralysis.
A Mississippi mom was frightened when her 5-year-old daughter could not stand or speak when she was woken up from school one morning. The girl had a tick on her head. Doctors later diagnosed her with a rare condition called tick paralysis. AP



A Mississippi mom said "scary" was an understatement when she woke her 5-year-old daughter, Kailyn, up for daycare and realized the little girl couldn't walk.

"We had a T-ball game the night before and she was perfectly fine," Kailyn's mom, Jessica Griffin, told WLBT. "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."

Then Griffin noticed that Kailyn couldn't seem to talk much either and knew something was very wrong, she wrote on Facebook. When Griffin brushed back her daughter's hair, she saw a big swollen tick, bagged it, and rushed Kailyn to the hospital, she told WLBT.

After blood work and a CT scan of her head, doctors diagnosed Kailyn with a rare infection known as "tick paralysis," Griffin wrote on Facebook.

Tick paralysis can occur when a female egg-laying tick becomes engorged with blood and then transmits a neurotoxin to the host through its saliva, according to the American Lyme Disease Foundation. The tick must be attached for five or six days straight before symptoms can set in, and the tick is usually found hidden in the hair or near the neck.

There is still some mystery surrounding how exactly this happens, and scientists have yet to determine the exact makeup of the toxin. The condition can be fatal if the tick is not removed, as the paralysis can spread to the respiratory muscles and stop a patient from breathing, according to the ALDF. Once the tick is removed, however, patients tend to recover rapidly.

Luckily, that's what happen with Kailyn, who has now "fully recovered and hasn’t slowed down since her feet hit that floor this morning," her mom wrote on Facebook.

She shared her daughter's story on Facebook to spread the word to other parents and make sure they "check those babies in EVERY crease of their body" for ticks.

Apart from tick paralysis, the parasites can spread more than 15 other diseases to humans, including lyme disease, tularemia, and even a condition that appears to make people allergic to red meat.

Dr. Ben Brock, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center where Kailyn was treated, told WLBT some tips for staying clear of ticks this summer.

"If you’re going outdoors, covering yourself in DEET can prevent tick bites," he told the station. "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."

To remove a tick, pull it out with fine-pointed tweezers and avoid folk remedies like using nail polish or heat to detach it, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Whether you’re camping, hiking or near brushy and wooded areas, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says tick bites should be top of mind.

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