Social media is overrun with warnings about ticks this summer as Lyme disease spreads across the country. Most parents already know to check their kids for the parasites and how to correctly remove them, but one nurse is warning families about another hidden danger.
Natalie Walsh of Wheeling, West Virginia, suffered every mom’s nightmare when her healthy 7-year-old daughter Natasha suddenly took extremely ill. Natasha woke up last Tuesday with a headache. Hours later, the young girl could no longer walk, and her temperature climbed to 104 degrees, her mom wrote on Facebook.
By that afternoon, a lump on the side of her head swelled up and changed colors. Natalie called it “the ugliest wound I have ever seen.” Panicked, she rushed her child to a local hospital, where doctors diagnosed it as a spider bite. Natasha’s agony still seemed like something much worse though.
“She’s my youngest of three, plus I’m a nurse so I’ve seen a lot of things,” Walsh told WPXI afterwards. “I’ve never seen a child get that sick that fast.” Trusting her instincts, the mom drove Natasha to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, where multiple experts in neurology, dermatology and infectious disease examined the girl. No one had seen a mark like it before, and medications and fluids weren’t helping.
After dozens of exams, the doctors finally determined the cause of the child’s pain: Lyme disease. Natasha’s symptoms presented atypically, but as soon as treatment started she recovered rapidly. Her “lump” was likely an unusual development of a bullseye rash, and Natalie later posted pictures of it to Facebook to help other parents.
“I wanted to share so maybe we could help maybe prevent this from happening to anyone else,” she wrote. “Lyme disease is on the rise and the type Natasha has attacked her nervous system. I just ask to please take precautions to prevent ticks with your children and yourself.”
Although Natalie never found a tick on her daughter, she advised looking for bites in general. “This was probably the scariest three days of my life as a mother,” she told WPXI. “No child should have to go through that if it’s preventable.”
Natasha soon returned home from the hospital, and she’s doing much better now.
The Walshes’ scary story still serves as an important reminder about the dangers of ticks. The tiny parasites can put both kids and adults in harm’s way, so take every precaution when spending time outside this summer.