Allergy alert: Parents’ warning after 4-year-old’s near-fatal tick bite

Child's hand with IV drip

A little boy’s lightning-fast decline into anaphylactic shock, following a tick bite is a reminder to mums and dads to trust their instincts – and seek swift medical attention, if in doubt.

Turn for the worst

Then four-year-old Billy Fetherston (who is now five) was in the car, on the way to the Murwillumbah Show, when his dad Gary and mum Suzy noticed something was amiss.

They pulled over when Billy began to cough and scratch his head, quickly noticing there were raised white bumps on his neck. 

Garry told The Northern Star that at this point, instinct kicked in, and they rushed Billy the twenty minute trip to Murwillumbah Hospital, with Suzy sitting in the back trying to keep her little boy conscious.

Rapid decline

Billy’s eyes were rolling back in his head and he was struggling to breathe and it must have seemed like the longest journey.

“Every time I looked in the rear-view mirror he looked like … we were losing him,” Garry recalls.

It took just half an hour for Billy to go from happy little boy to being in life-threatening danger, with hospital staff confirming just how lucky the family were.

“(Garry and I) kept it together because you’ve got to be strong for your child who is sitting there looking at you for comfort,” she said.

“It’s certainly traumatic to see your child become so unwell … and to be told it’s life-threatening is quite frightening.”

Tick allergy

Fortunately a nurse at Murwillumbah Hospital had experienced a similar near-fatal reaction to a tick with her own son and everyone acted speedily to save Billy’s life. Medical staff quickly found the culprit – on top of Billy’s head – and were able to treat him – and amazingly send him home four hours later. Champs!

Billy had apparently been the victim of a tick bite previously, but hadn’t had a reaction like this. However doctors warned the Fetherston’s that tick allergies were very common and he’s now carrying an EpiPen, in case he encounters a similar situation again.

Suzy told The Northern Star the family was” just grateful (Billy) is still here” and thanked the staff at Murwillumbah Hospital who “saved him”.

Better safe than sorry

Ticks are small parasites that feed on animal and human blood. They thrive in humid, moist bushy areas.

While tick bites generally don’t pose much of a threat, ticks MAY spread disease, cause tick paralysis or spark severe allergic reactions, like Billy’s.

If you or someone you know feels unwell and may have been exposed to a tick, seek medical attention as soon as possible.


Read more on this story at The Northern Star

Read more about ticks and their removal at the Department of Health

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