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Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (cont.)

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever Symptoms and Signs

Unfortunately, the early symptoms of RMSF are nonspecific, such as fever (usually greater than 102 F), nausea, vomiting, headache, muscle aches, and fatigue; these symptoms are frequently ignored or attributed to other causes. The rash, abdominal pain, joint pains, and diarrhea usually develop about two to 14 days after an infected tick bite. The rash usually begins on the wrists and ankles and spreads, but some individuals (about 10%-15%) do not develop it. Other symptoms that may occur are loss of appetite, hallucinations, photosensitivity, and excessive thirst.

Unless the patient tells the doctor a tick bite has happened, the doctor may not realize the patient may have RMSF. Children that get infected tick bites may not communicate this important symptom to their parents or doctor; likewise, many adults do not remember or even notice getting a tick bite. The classic symptoms of RMSF are a tick bite followed by fever and a rash. If the patient does not exhibit all three symptoms, the diagnosis frequently either is not correct or is delayed. A delayed diagnosis may allow time for severe symptoms to develop. Severe symptoms of RMSF are thrombocytopenia (low blood platelets that can lead to internal bleeding), hyponatremia (low sodium), meningismus (a condition of neck stiffness, headache, and possible fever suggesting brain membrane irritation), confusion, blindness, or coma that can result in death.

Picture of child's hand and wrist with spotted rash of Rocky Mountain spotted fever
Picture of child's hand and wrist with spotted rash of Rocky Mountain spotted fever; Source: CDC
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/23/2014

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