A Sydney mother is warning parents to be on alert for ticks lurking in their gardens after her toddler was rushed to hospital barely able to breathe from a bite.
Carmelle Leahey’s 17-month-old son Isaac was playing in the garden of their Northern Beaches home when a paralysis tick bit him.
Leahey had no idea the parasite had latched onto her boy until his condition started to deteriorate rapidly.
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“He couldn’t walk to me anymore,” she told 7NEWS. “He was just flat, really floppy.”
Isaac was taken to hospital for treatment.
“It was such an ordeal,” Leahey said.
“It was really scary.”
Carmelle Leahey’s 17-month-old son Isaac was bitten by a tick while playing in the garden of their Northern Beaches home. Credit: 7NEWS
Paralysis ticks, also known as seed or grass ticks, latch on to passing animals or people to feed.
The tick bite is often not noticeable but can lead to paralysis and allergic reactions in some cases, according to the Australian Museum.
“People can have such a severe allergic reaction that they die,” NSW Health medical entomology director Stephen Doggett told 7NEWS.
The bites initially cause local itchiness before more serious symptoms — such as rashes, weak limbs, flu-like symptoms, an unsteady gait and partial face paralysis — progress over several days.
Experts say children are most susceptible to problems caused by ticks as they may not be able to communicate they have been bitten, meaning the parasites can be feeding on them for days before someone notices.
Paralysis ticks thrive in dense bushland near the coast and are typically found from the tip of Queensland down to Victoria.
Meanwhile, kangaroo ticks are a threat in Western Australia, where they survive in dry conditions and can cause infection from long-lasting bites.
Leahey’s warning for other parents is to “be super vigilant”.
“Check your children, check behind their ears, check in between their fingers and toes,” she said.
Insect repellant is recommended as protection for children playing outside.
If a tick is spotted, coat the area with a freezing spray containing ether, then let it drop off by itself.
Experts advise against trying to remove it with fingernails or tweezers, as the tick could inject its saliva into the person bitten.
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