Five-year-old Mason McNair was enjoying a fun-filled trip to his grandparents’ Georgia home last month when they noticed a small tick burrowed in the boy’s belly button. They picked the critter out, Mason returned home and his parents thought nothing of the incident — until the next day.
“We noticed that was red and looked infected,” Mason’s mother, Danielle, tells PEOPLE. “About six inches in diameter around the entire bite. It just looked really nasty and infected.”
So, Danielle, 27, took the child to a local doctor, who prescribed Mason a 10-day antibiotic and sent the family on their way. On the final day of the medication, Mason broke out in what appeared to be a rash, Danielle says. Less than 24 hours later, he was covered in red patches.
“I was terrified when I woke up that morning and saw how badly it had progressed,” the mom of three says. “I was in a panic. I called his doctor and told him needed to be seen immediately. I was running around the house, scrambling to get dressed and him dressed. I was in full mom-mode!”
Mason was “scared” and “confused” when he saw his skin covered in small red spots.
Danielle says doctors, too, were baffled by the boy’s appearance, and didn’t know what was happening to Mason. Doctors concluded that the spots were a delayed reaction to the antibiotic and said the boy’s “rash” could last for up to six weeks.
However, this didn’t sit well with Danielle. The concerned mother enlisted the help of some family members and researched the boy’s condition. Soon, they found an illness that matched the Mason’s symptoms: Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) is a bacterial disease spread through the bite of an infected tick, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms include a fever, headache and rash. The disease can be deadly if not treated early with the correct medication. Danielle says she presented her findings to Mason’s doctors who, after doing some research of their own, diagnosed the boy with RMSF.
“I felt absolutely sick. My heart felt like it stopped, my stomach was in knots! Knowing how serious it is from all of the research I had done, I was terrified and ready for him to start the medication!” she says. “It can lead to death… that’s the scariest thing to ever read when it comes to something your child just got diagnosed with.”
Mason quickly began treatment, and the spots began to clear up after three days, Danielle tells PEOPLE. Now, the boy is back to his healthy self, but the doting mother says she takes extra precautions when allowing her children to play outside. And she says she wants to encourage worried parents to get a second opinion.
“Parents always need to speak up, no matter what! If a doctor disregards your concern for your child, get a second opinion! Do not stop until you are completely satisfied with the health of your child!” she says.
“This whole process has been such a horribly, scary situation, just extremely exhausting. I am beyond happy to see him healthy again. It’s just really important for parents to be an advocate for their child. Doctors are humans too, and as a parent you need to do your own research so you are informed and aware.”