As temperatures rise and kids and pets across the U.S. return to playing outdoors, they’re more likely than ever to come in contact with ticks — and in some cases, experts warn, the dangers could be fatal.
Last week in Oregon, Amanda Lewis posted a video on Facebook showing her 4-year-old daughter Evelyn struggling to walk. The video, which has been viewed more than 12 million times, captured the unsettling moment as Evelyn tries to stand but her legs go limp.
By the next morning, the little girl couldn’t use her legs at all, and could barely move her arms. Evelyn was rushed to the emergency room, where doctors realized the cause — a tiny American dog tick in her hair, her parents said.
“They just went straight into grooming her hair and found it,” her father Lantz Lewis said in an interview with ABC News’ “Good Morning America.”
Once doctors removed the insect, Evelyn’s condition began to improve.
“It took her until pretty much the next morning before she was able to walk normally again,” her mother told “GMA.”
Evelyn was diagnosed with tick paralysis, a disease that can occur when a tick remains attached to a host for a prolonged period of time. Human cases are rare, and the symptoms, which start with weakness, typically diminish quickly once the tick is removed. But, in some cases, full paralysis can develop and may lead to respiratory failure and even death.
Lyme disease, the most common vector-borne ailment, is another concern during tick season. Approximately 30,000 Americans are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year. However, an underreporting of cases suggests the actual count could be as high as 300,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“The tickiest month across America is May, but April through June is really the highest tick activity season,” Thomas Mather, director of the University of Rhode Island Center for Vector Borne-Disease, said in an interview with “GMA.”
“In most cases, people have a day to find the tick and remove it before the tick has the chance to transmit germs that will make them sick,” Mather added.
Ticks are often found in areas with tall grasses, piles of leaves or even in the shrubs around your home.
To keep you and your family safe, experts advise people to always check for ticks upon coming in from the outdoors, wear clothing with built-in tick repellent, use tick repellent sprays and shower within two hours of leaving the outdoors to help wash away any unattached ticks.
If you’re trying to remove a tick, experts say to first protect your fingers with a tissue or latex gloves, and then gently remove the insect with a pair of tweezers.
“The best way to remove a tick if you find one attached is to use a pointy tweezer and pull it straight off. By using a tweezer, then you have the tick and you can take a picture of it, save it, identify it and then you’ll know better what risk you’re at,” Mather said.
Experts also advise not to squeeze the tick’s body when removing it, which could cause the insect to release its contents into the bite area and infect the host. Upon removal, drop the tick in rubbing alcohol to kill it and immediately disinfect the bite area, experts say.