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Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever


Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) is an acute infection caused by bacteria from a tick bite. Acute means symptoms start suddenly, get worse quickly, and last a short time. RMSF is more common April through September.



  • Antibiotics help fight infection caused by bacteria.
  • Acetaminophen helps decrease your fever. Ask your primary healthcare provider how much to take and when to take it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your primary healthcare provider or infectious disease specialist within 2 days:

You will need close follow-up until your symptoms improve. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Prevent RMSF:

  • Wear light colored clothing that covers your head, neck, arms, and legs for outdoor activities.
  • Spray your exposed skin with a tick repellant that contains DEET for outdoor activities. Spray your clothes and gear with insect repellant that contains permethrin.
  • Check your entire body for ticks after outdoor activities. Also check your pets and gear for ticks. Take a shower as soon as possible when you go indoors. Use gloves and tweezers to remove ticks. Check to make sure you removed the whole tick, including the head. Clean the area with soap and water. Wash your hands after the tick is removed. Watch the area for a rash for the next month. Dry your clothes on high for at least 1 hour to kill any ticks.


  • Rest when you feel it is needed. Slowly start to do more each day. Return to your daily activities as directed.
  • Eat small, healthy meals every 2 to 3 hours during the day. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish.

Contact your primary healthcare provider if:

  • Your rash starts to turn black.
  • Your fever and pain do not go away, even after treatment.
  • Your skin and the whites of your eyes turn yellow.
  • You bleed from your nose or gums.
  • You have bruises without injury.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • You have a severe headache.
  • You have a swollen, hard, or tender abdomen.
  • You have swelling in your hands or legs.
  • You have trouble urinating, or you cannot urinate at all.
  • You have chest pain, trouble breathing, or a fast or pounding heartbeat.
  • You are confused.
  • You have a seizure.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.