Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) is a serious tick-borne disease that dermatologists at Lupton Dermatology are well-equipped to recognize and manage. Caused by the bacterium Rickettsia rickettsii, transmitted by ticks, RMSF presents with symptoms including a distinct rash, fever, headache, and muscle pain, which typically develop a few days after the tick bite. Early detection and treatment are crucial, as the disease can become severe without prompt antibiotic therapy.

At Lupton Dermatology, our experienced team is committed to providing comprehensive care, offering expert diagnosis and treatment options to ensure the health and safety of our patients faced with tick-borne illnesses like RMSF.

What are the Symptoms of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever?

  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is characterized by a rash that begins as small red spots or blotches on the wrists, ankles, palms or soles of the feet. It spreads up the arms and legs to the trunk of the body. These symptoms take between one and two weeks to appear following a tick bite.
  • The rash is often accompanied by fever, chills, muscle ache, red eyes, light sensitivity, excessive thirst, loss of appetite, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and/or fatigue.

Causes of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) is primarily caused by the bacterium Rickettsia rickettsii. This bacterium is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected ticks, with certain species acting as vectors.
  • Ticks such as the American dog tick, the Rocky Mountain wood tick, and the brown dog tick are common carriers of Rickettsia rickettsii.
  • The life cycle of the bacterium involves ticks and certain mammals, such as rodents and dogs, serving as hosts.
  • Humans become infected when bitten by an infected tick during any stage of its life cycle.

How to prevent Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Preventing Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) involves minimizing tick bite risks. Avoid grassy and wooded spots, choosing clear trails. Use EPA-approved tick repellents like DEET or picaridin on exposed skin and clothing and wear protective clothing, including long sleeves and pants.

Regular tick checks post-outdoor activities, focusing on hidden areas, are vital. Prompt and proper tick removal with fine-tipped tweezers is crucial. These measures significantly reduce RMSF risk, promoting well-being in tick-prone environments.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) FAQs

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is a bacterial infection caused by Rickettsia rickettsii. It is transmitted through the bite of an infected tick, most commonly the American dog tick, Rocky Mountain wood tick, and brown dog tick.

Symptoms usually appear 2-14 days after a tick bite and can include:

  • High fever
  • Severe headache
  • Rash (typically starting at the wrists and ankles)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Muscle pain
  • Lack of appetite

RMSF is a serious illness that can be fatal if not treated promptly. Early diagnosis and treatment with antibiotics are crucial to prevent severe complications or death.

Diagnosis is based on clinical signs and symptoms, and confirmed through specialized laboratory tests such as serology, PCR, or immunohistochemistry on a skin biopsy.

  • Remove the tick as soon as possible using fine-tipped tweezers.
  • Grasp the tick close to the skin and pull upward with steady, even pressure.
  • Clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
  • Monitor the area for signs of infection and seek medical attention if symptoms of RMSF develop.

How to treat Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

The primary treatment for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) involves prompt administration of antibiotics, 

If RMSF is suspected, seeking prompt medical attention is essential. Schedule an appointment with us today for timely and effective care.

Early diagnosis and treatment significantly improve outcomes and reduce the risk of complications associated with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, especially for individuals bitten by ticks in endemic areas.