- Paula Binns took five-year-old Lilyanna to the GP after noticing the tiny parasite on her head while she plaited her hair
- She has made a formal complaint claiming the doctor at the practice in Walkden told her to seek advice from a vet instead
- 26-year-old said the family contacted a vet who said they could not help
- A neighbour eventually removed the tick using tweezers
- Blood-sucking parasites can infect humans with debilitating Lyme disease
A mother who took her five-year-old daughter to have a tick removed by a doctor was sent away to see a vet instead.
Paula Binns, 26, took Lilyanna to her local surgery after finding the tiny parasite while plaiting the girl’s hair.
But the GP tried unsuccessfully to remove the tick by hand and then said that Miss Binns needed to take her daughter to a vet.
Paula Binns claims her GP advised she take her five-year-old daughter Lilyanna to a local vets practice to have a tick removed
When the family contacted a vet’s practice, they were told it did not treat humans but could supply a tick removal tool. Lilyanna’s discomfort was eventually relieved by a neighbour who sterilised tweezers and extracted the parasite.
Yesterday Miss Binns, from Walkden, Salford, said: ‘My daughter’s a human being, not an animal – it’s a shocking way to treat a little girl.’
Miss Binns spotted the tick last week after the youngster had been doing cartwheels on grassland.
Aware that removing the blood-sucking creature by hand can spread infections such as Lyme disease, she took Lilyanna to Gill Medical Centre in Manchester.
Ms Binns has made a formal complaint to the doctors' surgery in Walkden, Greater Manchester
‘When we first went in she told me Lilyanna just had a scab, not a tick. She didn’t believe me,’ the mother-of-two said. ‘But she had another look and spotted the tick. Then she tried to pull it out with her fingers, but I told her that that wouldn’t work.
‘She Googled it and eventually told me there was nothing she could do. The doctor kept saying, “It’s really stuck in there” and Lilyanna started to panic and burst into tears … she thought something was seriously wrong with her.
‘The only option [the GP] gave us was to take her to the vets. That’s not normal though, you can’t just say that to people.’
Lilyanna’s stepfather Chris Hargreaves, 28, called Pet Medics where their Labrador is registered, only to be told: ‘Sorry, we can’t do anything with humans.’
The couple, who have an 18-month-old son, Bradley, complained to the surgery and are considering moving to another.
Miss Binns added: ‘I could have tried to take it out myself, but instead I tried to do the right thing and take Lilyanna to see a professional who I thought would know what they were doing. I’m disgusted they could try to send a child to a vet.’
Kate Armitage, manager of Gill Medical Centre, said its GPs consult the website of charity Lyme Disease Action when dealing with ticks, adding: ‘In the event a patient has a tick still attached we advise it should only be removed using a specialist tick removal device.’
The charity’s Sue Ockwell said vets can often supply removal kits ‘so as far as we’re concerned the medical practice hasn’t done anything wrong’.
But Louise O’Dwyer, clinical director of Pet Medics, said she had never heard of their vets treating children with ticks. She added: ‘I’d certainly be shocked if a doctor told me to see a vet about a child’s medical condition.’
Guidance from Public Health England advises that ticks – which can be as small as a poppy seed – should be removed as soon as possible without squeezing or crushing the creatures, and to see a doctor if symptoms develop. The parasites can be spread from long grass or contact with pets between spring and autumn. Because their bites do not cause itchiness they can remain on the skin, sucking the person’s blood, for days before falling off.
Experts suggest using insect repellent and tucking trousers into socks when camping or hiking during warmer months.
WHY DO TICKS POSE A THREAT TO HUMANS?
Ticks feed on the blood of humans and animals, and can pass on the debilitating Lyme disease
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection spread to humans by infected ticks. Ticks are tiny arachnids found in woodland areas.
The parasites feed on the blood of humans and animals. Their bites often go unnoticed, leaving the tick to remain for several days gorging on blood, before dropping off.
The longer the tick is left in place, the higher the risk of it passing on the infection.
Lyme disease can affect a person's skin, joints, heart and nervous system.
What are the symptoms?
The earliest and most common symptom is a pink or red circular rash around the bite site. It can develop three to 30 days after a person is bitten. The rash is described as being similar to a bull's-eye on a dart board.
An infected person may also suffer flu-like symptoms, including tiredness, headaches and muscle or joint pain.
If left untreated, further symptoms, including muscle pain and temporary paralysis of the facial muscles, can develop months or even years later.
In its late stages the disease can trigger symptoms similar to fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome.
Lyme disease is not contagious but is the most common tick-borne infection in Europe and North America.
Public Health England estimates there are between 2,000 and 3,000 cases in England and Wales each year.
Most tick bites happen in late spring, early summer and the autumn - the times when people are most likely to be outside, hiking or camping.
There is currently no vaccine to prevent the disease. The best way to avoid it, is to avoid being bitten.
Experts advise people walking in woodland areas wear long-sleeved clothes, tuck trousers into socks, use insect repellent, and importanly check for ticks when they return home.
What to do if you find a tick:
If you do find a tick they can be removed by gently gripping the parasite as close to the skin as possible, preferrably using fine-toothed tweezers, and pulling steadily from the skin.
Never use a lit cigarette end, a match head or essential oils to force the tick out.