South Dakota girl’s diagnosis a reminder about safety during tick season


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — With summer in full swing, you may be spending a lot more time outdoors. And that means more chances to get ticks.

After a fun weekend of camping a few years ago, Lilly Mueller’s parents, Breanne and Brodie, noticed ticks on their six-year-old daughter’s head.

“We came home and put the kids in the tub like you do and then we pulled like two ticks off our six-year-old and one tick off our four old, and kind of just forgot about it,” Breanne said.

That was until about a week later when Lilly developed a rash.

“We took her in and Breanne had had a strep positive strep tested the week before. And so they’re like, ‘Well, it’s probably strep.’ So we didn’t think anything of it and kind of left and it kept getting worse,” Brodie said.

After seeing another doctor, her symptoms weren’t improving so Lilly was taken to her primary care provider in Aberdeen.

“The risk of any disease, is decided by what type of tick that you find, which most people can’t identify and whether or not it’s infected, which again is something you won’t know. We just consider every tick infected,” pediatric nurse practitioner Bobby Goeman said.

Goeman says immediately after seeing Lilly, she knew something more serious than strep was going on. After learning about the camping trip and ticks, she sent Lilly to Sanford Children’s Hospital to be checked for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

“By the time we got to the Sanford Children’s Castle, they said this is classic. Like this was a, this is a board’s question. She’s presenting so classic for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever,” Brodie said.

Lilly was taken to the PICU and treated with antibiotics, and went home with no long-term side effects. Goeman describes Lilly as one of the lucky ones.

“It can cause more significant side effects such as paralysis, hearing loss, organ failure. There can be amputations of the fingers and toes, the arms and the legs. And again, it can even be fatal if not treated,” Goeman said.

She says prevention is key, and it’s doable by a few simple actions.

“You can treat your yard. Wear an insect repellent with DEET. Ticks can’t bite through clothing,” Goeman said.

If you do develop symptoms such as a rash, fever or fatigue after a tick bite– getting a diagnosis quick is crucial.

“If I could really reiterate any message, it would be, have a primary care doctor that knows you and knows your family and that you trust. And who cares about you. Because in the end that’s what saved her life,” Breanne said.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is rare and people shouldn’t be afraid to head outside. But when you do, it’s important to check yourself for ticks immediately. Goeman says typically ticks have to be attached for about 6 to 10 hours in order to spread disease.

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