Tick Bites and Bell’s Palsy


BOSTON, Mass. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — An adult tick is no bigger than a sesame seed. So you can imagine how small its bite is. That’s why it’s important to do a daily skin inventory for tick bites, especially when you’re outside a lot.

Tick, tock. It’s that time of year, tick season. And along with ticks comes the threat of Lyme disease.

“This place is great for a walk, but it’s loaded with ticks.” Renee stated.

But, Lyme disease isn’t the only thing you can get from a tick.

“Believe it or not, a simple tick bite can bring on bell’s palsy. Bell’s palsy is a palsy of the facial nerve which is the nerve that controls the muscles in the face.” Said Kathleen Townes, MD, Internal Medicine/Pediatrics at North Shore Physicians Group.

Rare, but not impossible. Yearly, 20 out of 100,000 people like Karen Stone get Bell’s palsy.

“This started four months ago and I am hoping for a full recovery. Each day I keep looking to see if it gets better, but it doesn’t.” Stone told Ivanhoe.

This one-sided facial droop makes daily routines difficult.

Stone continued “So, it’s kind of embarrassing.”

It’s true; there are a lot of other ways to get Bell’s palsy. But Dr. Townes says a tick may have been the culprit behind Pamela Tomlin’s disorder.

“When I first noticed it, I couldn’t blink my eyes one at a time and I thought I was having a stroke. And, I believe I got mine from a tick, I mean, crazy as it seems I let my dog sleep in my bed.” Tomlin said.

“I would recommend if you have the sudden onset of a facial droop, you contact your doctor immediately to talk about that,” advised Dr. Townes.

Pam was lucky. Her case was mild. She recovered in just three weeks. But, not everyone is that lucky.

“I guess the most frustrating thing for me is just not knowing, not knowing if it is gonna get better.” Stone shared.

So, take precautions. Cover up, wear long sleeves and socks, use bug repellent, check yourself a lot for ticks, and, let your dog sleep in his or her own bed.

Contributors to this news report include: Pamela Tomlin, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; Steve D’onofrio, Videographer.

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REPORT #2447

BACKGROUND: Bell’s palsy is a severe weakness of the facial muscles on one side of the face due to swelling of the nerve that controls the muscles of the face. On the bright side, the condition tends to go away. Some mistake the sudden paralysis as a stroke, but if the symptoms only affect the face then it is most likely Bell’s palsy. Approximately 1 in 5 people develop Bell’s palsy every year. Other symptoms include difficulty closing one of the eyes, irritation in one of the eyes, drooling from the side of the face, a change in sense of taste, an affected ear where sounds may seem louder, headaches, and pain in front or behind the ear.  Bell’s palsy occurs when the facial nerve becomes inflamed and pinches through a narrow gap of bone from the brain to the face which can result in damage to the protective nerve covering causing signals being transmitted from the brain to the muscles in the face to not transmit properly.  This leads to weakened facial muscles. The actual cause is not known, but is most likely caused by the herpes virus. Other viruses linked to this condition are: chicken pox, shingles, mumps, cold sores, influenza B and hand-foot-and-mouth disease. The condition commonly affects people aged 15-60, pregnant women (usually in third trimester), those who have upper respiratory disease or diabetes and women who gave birth less than 1 week ago.

(Source: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/158863.php)

TICK BITES AND BELL’S PALSY:  Bell’s palsy is one of the stages in Lyme disease (which is most commonly transmitted by a tick bite). It occurs in the middle stage where the bacteria leaves the skin and affects the joints. These ticks that carry the Lyme disease have a higher concentration in the northeastern parts of the country, the mid-Atlantic, and the upper north-central area in the U.S. The two ticks that carry Lyme disease are the Black-legged deer tick and the Western black-legged tick. Ticks infected can range from less than 1 percent to more than 50 percent depending on the location. They live in wooded or brush areas, unkempt yards and tall grasslands. There are no vaccines available for humans. Ticks are more active March through November.


PRECAUTIONS:  It is important to stay out of high-risk areas mentioned above. Ticks can also be found on pets, so it is important to regularly inspect animals that live with you, and do not allow animals to sleep in the bed with you. It is important to dress in light-colored clothing, long-sleeved shirts, socks and clean closed-toe shoes, and to wear long pants that are tucked in the socks.  It’s also important to do a regular body check in all the body parts that bend, such as behind the knees, between the fingers and toes and under arms.  Ticks can also be found in the belly button, behind the ears, neck and hairline, top of the head and even areas of pressure points (like waistbands or anywhere clothes press on skin). Products that contain DEET can be a great repellent against ticks but are not one-hundred percent effective. Products that contain permethrin are known to kill ticks, but they should be sprayed on clothing, not on skin.


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Also consult your primary care physician if you show any symptoms after being bitten by a tick.