Tick paralysis is an unusual but spectacular disease from a medical standpoint. Tick paralysis is a loss of muscle function that results from a tick bite. The illness is caused by a neurotoxin produced in the tick’s salivary gland. Tick paralysis results from inoculation of a toxin from tick salivary glands during a blood meal. The resulting paralysis is ascending (starting in the lower body and moving up). Affected children develop an unsteady gait (ataxia) followed several days later by lower extremity weakness that gradually moves up to involve the upper limbs.The toxin causes symptoms within 2-7 days, beginning with weakness in both legs that progresses to paralysis. The paralysis ascends upward to trunk, arms, and head within hours and may lead to respiratory failure and death.
The disease can present as acute ataxia without muscle weakness. Hard- and soft-bodied female ticks are believed to make a poison that can cause paralysis in children. Ticks attach to the skin to feed on blood. It is during this feeding process that the toxin enters the bloodstream. The paralysis is ascending that means it starts in the lower body and moves up. It is similar to that seen in Guillain-Barre syndrome and opposite that seen in botulism and paralytic shellfish poisoning. Paralysis may cause loss of respiratory ability and ventilatory assistance may become necessary. Preventive measures include avoiding trails that are overgrown with bushy vegetation, wearing light-colored clothes and wearing long pants and closed-toe shoes. Removing the tick removes the source of the neurotoxin.
Tick Paralysis Treatment and Prevention Tips
1. Avoiding trails that are overgrown with bushy vegetation.
2. Permethrin is more effective in preventing tick bites.
3. Removing the tick removes the source of the neurotoxin.
4. Use insect repellents and protective clothing when out in tick-infested areas.
5. Wearing light-colored clothes and wearing long pants and closed-toe shoes.