Why Tick Paralysis Is More Serious Than You Think

Many people don't realize just how disastrous a tick bite can truly be until it's far too late. Case in point: there are actually not one, not two but 40 (!) different species of ticks that can actually cause paralysis in their victims. While it's true that this is usually only a problem for dogs and other animals, thousands of people are affected each year - which means that you need to know as much about the cause, the symptoms and the solution as possible so you can avoid this type of situation yourself.

How Tick Paralysis Happens

Certain types of female ticks (the kind that also lay eggs) produce a very specific neurotoxin when they latch onto the skin of a victim and begin to feed. This toxin then gets passed onto the host almost immediately, which is how paralysis occurs. There are four species in North America in particular that you have to worry about - the American Dog Tick, the Rocky Mountain Wood Tick, the Amblyomma Tick and the Lxodes Tick. They're particularly common in the Southeast, the Pacific Northwest and the Rockies - so stay sharp out there.

The Symptoms of Tick Paralysis

The most important thing for you to understand about all of this is that most tick paralysis symptoms won't actually start for about five to six days AFTER the tick has attached itself to a victim's skin. People affected generally report some type of tingling sensation, which starts at the feet and works its way up the legs. Many people often say that they suddenly find it hard to work and are constantly losing their balance, due largely to the fact that they're losing sensation in their lower extremities. These symptoms can extend to the neck, shoulders and face as well.

When left untreated, this can actually lead to suffocation as it can cause paralysis in the muscles that are responsible for breathing. In very rare cases, these symptoms can even make their way to a person's brain stem. This can also, in extreme situations, eventually lead to death.

At this point, it's important to note that tick paralysis tends to affect teens and young people much more than adults because it's difficult to actually detect ticks that attach themselves to the scalp beneath long hair (so pay close attention to teen girls in particular). However, hairy adult males are also particularly at risk because of the aforementioned issues.

How Tick Paralysis Happens

The absolute best way to prevent tick paralysis is to avoid being bitten in the first place, which means covering ALL exposed skin with clothing if you're going to be spending time in a tick infested area. When you get home, be sure to check all of the areas of your body where these critters like to hide, too - like your hair and scalp. If you've got dog, inspect your dog's coat before letting them back in the house and remove any ticks that may be stowaways. If you're traveling internationally and are exposed to ticks, be sure to check your clothes, your body AND your luggage before you get on the plane to head back home.

As is true with most things, the best defense for tick paralysis is truly a good offense. So long as you're vigilant when it comes to spending time among the great outdoors, you'll likely be just fine.

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