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Health Information For Parents
Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) is a bacterial infection. People get it from the bite of an infected tick. Most infections happen in the spring and summer, when ticks are active.
Doctors treat RMSF with antibiotics. With prompt treatment, most people recover in a few days.
RMSF gets its name from the trademark rash it causes. Small red spots and blotches begin on the wrists and ankles, then spread to the palms and soles, and up the arms and legs toward the trunk. Over time, the red spots might start to look more like bruises or bloody dots or patches under the skin.
Other signs of RMSF include:
Symptoms often begin suddenly, usually within 1 week of a tick bite, though sometimes a bit later. Often, the person doesn’t remember being bitten by a tick. The rash most often appears 3–5 days after the fever and headache start, but can take longer.
Bacteria called Rickettsia rickettsia cause RMSF. Ticks spread the bacteria when they bite a person. Infections are most common in the southeastern part of the United States, but can happen in other states.
RMSF isn’t contagious, and can’t spread from person to person. The infection spreads through the bite of an infected tick.
Doctors usually diagnose RMSF based on:
A blood test and skin test can help diagnose RMSF, but getting the results takes time, so treatment often starts before the results are ready.
Doctors treat RMSF with antibiotics. Depending on how serious the symptoms are, a person might take these by mouth or get them through an IV (intravenously). Most people recover within a few days.
An infection that isn’t treated right away can cause serious health problems, which can affect the brain, lungs, heart, and kidneys. Someone with these problems may need long-lasting treatment. RMSF that isn’t treated can be life-threatening.
To help protect kids from Rocky Mountain spotted fever, follow these outdoor safety tips:
Not all ticks carry the RMSF bacteria, but it’s wise to remove any right away. The longer a tick stays attached to the skin, the greater the chance of infection. It usually takes several hours for a tick to spread the bacteria that cause RMSF when it’s attached to the skin.
To remove a tick, use tweezers to grasp it by the head, as close to the skin as possible. Pull steadily until it comes loose. Without touching the tick, preserve it in a jar or plastic bag until you can show it to your doctor. Disinfect the bite area with alcohol, wash your hands, and call your doctor.
Check pets’ skin and fur for ticks whenever they have been playing in tick-infested areas. Follow your veterinarian’s advice about collars and other products that can keep your pet tick-free.
If your child is recovering from RMSF at home, give the antibiotics as the doctor directed. Let your child rest in bed until the fever and other symptoms are gone.
Call the doctor if your child may have been bitten by a tick or has:
Find out what the experts say.
Some ticks carry harmful germs that can cause disease. Find out what to do if your child is bitten by a tick.
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Generally, insect bites and stings are harmless. Find out how to keep pests from ruining your fun.
Lyme disease can affect the skin, joints, nervous system, and other organ systems. If Lyme disease is diagnosed quickly and treated with antibiotics, most people feel better quickly.
The best way to prevent Lyme disease is to prevent tick bites. Find out more about this disease and how to keep those ticks away.
Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) is a disease caused by a bacteria that is carried by certain types of ticks. Learn about the signs and symptoms of RMSF and tips for preventing infection in this article.
Lyme disease can be treated if it’s caught early. Find out what causes it, how it’s treated, and how to prevent it.
A tick attaches itself to the skin of a person or animal and sucks blood. If you have a dog, it may have picked up a tick before! Learn more about ticks in this article for kids.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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