Over the past two weeks, almost four-year-old Lana has not been fully well. She’s been “wobbly” — unable to walk properly and even falling down sometimes. And it was all from a paralysis tick that was lodged behind one ear.

I’m sharing this both as a record for our family and also as a case study to provide some indication of how long it can take a small child to recover from a paralysis tick. Some children do need medication and hospitalisation from paralysis-tick bites, but only if it starts to affect their breathing or if they display symptoms of an allergic reaction.

Lana (Delaney) Fisher, 3yo, November 2013
She's all good! It's great to have our little Lana back to her normal, active and mischievous self.

I’m not exactly sure when Lana collected the tick. It may have been from our time camping at the Mann River or during one of our explorations of the Pillaga Forest. Regardless, when I pulled it off her, it was about the size of my pinky fingernail — fat with blood and already causing some topical pain that Lana thought was a bruise.

I removed the tick on Thursday, 24 October. By the next day, Lana had become less stable in walking. She started to fall over occasionally and stopped being able to climb. Although her limbs still moved, they were uncoordinated and it looked like she had a limp or a stiff leg.

By that Sunday, Lana was unable to walk without assistance, and so I carried her around the zoo in my sling. Ataxia is a common side-effect of paralysis ticks in children, but I was alarmed by Lana’s continued deterioration. When I sought medical advice, I was told that it was normal for the symptoms to worsen before they started to disappear.

Another startling effect of the paralysis tick was that Lana developed partial facial paralysis. One eye lost its ability to track with its mate, and so she looked like she had a “lazy eye”. Lana started squinting to counteract this, although she didn’t complain. In fact, although there was some residual pain at the site of the tick-bite and her lymph nodes on that side of her head were swollen, Lana rarely complained at all.

During our visit to Leeton, I still needed to carry Lana around quite a bit. She was starting to get better, but her improvement was very gradual and only small improvements were visible each day.

Lana’s ataxia continued for another week and because I carried her around, there was some discussion in our family about whether Lana was faking it or “really wobbly”! (Later, Lana has admitted that there were some incidents when she was complaining about being wobbly just so she’d get carried.) However, today she turned to me and declared, “I’m not wobbly any more!” which means her recovery took about ten days with no negative residual effects!