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Tick Paralysis

What is tick paralysis?

Tick paralysis is a disease caused by the bite of a tick. When a tick feeds on a person
or animal, a chemical in its saliva is released that inhibits the normal function of nerves
and muscles.

How do you get tick paralysis?

A tick must be attached to the skin and feeding for tick paralysis to occur. Many tick
species are capable of causing tick paralysis. In the United States, most cases occur in
the Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountain states following the bite of the Rocky
Mountain wood tick. In the eastern and southern states, other tick species, including
the American dog tick, the Lone Star tick, the Gulf Coast tick, and occasionally the deer
tick, have been associated with human cases. The condition often occurs in children
less than eight years old; however, anyone bitten by ticks can be at risk.

What are the symptoms of tick paralysis?

The first symptom is weakness in the arms and legs, two to seven days following a tick
bite. Hours to days later, patients become unable to move their arms and legs. If not
treated, patients may become unable to speak or even breathe. How badly a person is
affected depends on the number of ticks and how long they remain attached. Tick
paralysis is fatal in about ten percent of untreated patients. Tick paralysis can resemble
other infectious and noninfectious disorders of the nervous system (e.g., botulism).

How is tick paralysis treated?

Locating and removing the attached tick(s) is the only necessary treatment. Ticks are
often found attached on the scalp, particularly at the hairline
In most cases, normal muscle function returns within hours of removing the tick.

How can I prevent tick paralysis?

The risk of tick paralysis, as well as other diseases transmitted by ticks, can be reduced
by taking appropriate precautions to avoid tick bites. If possible, avoid areas where
ticks are known to occur. When in these areas, wear light-colored long pants and long
sleeve shirts. Repellants applied to clothing can further deter ticks from attaching.
When outdoor activities are completed, thoroughly examine yourself and promptly
remove any ticks that may be attached.

Where can I find more information on tick paralysis?

The American Lyme Disease Foundation has information available on their website


This web site is intended for your own informational purposes only. No person or entity associated with this web site purports to be engaging in the practice of medicine through this medium. The information you receive is not intended as a substitute for the advice of a physician or other health care professional. If you have an illness or medical problem, contact your health care provider.


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