- Days after getting a tick bite while playing outside, Jackson Oblisk came down with a fever.
- His mum took him to the hospital, where his condition got worse. He developed a full-body rash, swelling, head pain, and a loss of appetite.
- Doctors diagnosed Oblisk with Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF), a potentially life-threatening bacterial infection acquired through tick bites.
- RMSF can be treated with antibiotics. If it’s not, the infection can lead to organ failure.
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Kayla Oblisk didn’t think twice when her husband had to remove a tick from their 2-year-old son Jackson after he spent the day playing outside. But when Jackson came down with a fever four days after the tick bite, the mum in Louisville, Kentucky, became worried about her son’s health. After taking Jackson to the hospital, he developed a rash and full-body swelling.
“By the time we got to hospital that Monday, he was in a ton of pain, crying, and trying to rub his head because it hurt,” Oblisk told INSIDER. “[Then] they gave him IV antibiotics and he wailed because it hurt so badly to be touched.”
Oblisk said her son would only wake up when routine tests were being done. During that time, he would scream in pain before eventually going back to sleep. He also refused to eat for nine days straight.
It turned out that the tick gave Jackson Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF), a bacterial disease that is one of the most deadly tick-borne illnesses in the Americas, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. An estimated 1 in 1,000 wood and dog ticks are infected with RMSF, which, when transmitted to humans through a tick bite, can cause a fever, headaches, rashes, nausea, vomiting, a lack of appetite, and muscle pain according to the CDC.
Rashes typically appear two to four days after a tick bite occurs, even if the tick was removed from the person’s body, which was the case for Jackson. Because symptoms don’t appear right away with RMSF, the disease can be difficult to diagnose. Left undiagnosed and untreated, it can lead to organ failure and death. Fortunately, that outcome is rare: Only 0.5% of RMSF cases end in death, according to the CDC.
Rocky Mountain spotted fever can only be treated with antibiotics
Oblisk said she is unsure what would have happened to her son if she didn’t take him to the hospital when she did. When they arrived, doctors gave him the antibiotic doxycycline through an IV, which the CDC considers the best RMSF treatment for both adults and children.
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“[Doctors] couldn’t tell us if he would make it through because he was decreasing so rapidly into organ failure,” she said. “He plateaued right above organ failure then has slowly been making his way back up [to being healthy].”
Oblisk said her son will be considered fully treated when he’s been on antibiotics for 10 days without a fever. Currently, his fever persists, so they’re still at the hospital. Oblisk posts updates to her Facebook page about Jackson and his progress (he is now able to eat and smile again), and she hopes the messages act as a wake-up call to other parents.
“We were never that family that would use bug spray, but you should always be using it and protecting yourself against what could happen because one little tick could completely change your life,” she said.
There is no vaccine to protect against RMSF, so the CDC recommends using Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellents and treating clothes and outdoor gear with permethrin, a type of insecticide.
Ticks are most often in grassy and wooded areas, so be cautious in these places, as well as around pets, and always check your body for ticks once you’re back indoors. If you find any, remove them right away with tweezers. If you remove a tick with the bacteria within 20 hours, you’re less likely to contract RMSF, according to the National Institutes of Health.
- Read more:
- 14 celebrities who have opened up about battling Lyme disease
- The red meat allergy that’s spread by ticks might also be spread by a common itchy pest
- A mother says her 5-year-old was temporarily paralysed by a tick bite – here’s what to know about the rare illness
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