Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Rocky Mountain spotted fever is an infection you can get from certain kinds of ticks. Ticks are small spider-like animals that attach to your skin and feed on blood. This infection can lead to life-threatening problems, such as shock and kidney failure, if it is not treated quickly. It can be treated with antibiotics.

The first symptoms usually start about 2 to 14 days after the tick bite. They include a sudden fever, severe headache, muscle and joint aches, and nausea and vomiting. A rash that looks like many tiny, flat, purple or red spots may come later. The rash usually starts on the wrists and ankles and then spreads to the arms and legs and the rest of the body.

Be sure to remove a tick from your body as soon as you find one. This helps you avoid an infection or any diseases the tick may pass on. Ask your doctor whether you need a tetanus shot to prevent tetanus (lockjaw).

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

After a tick bite

  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Do not take two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.

Removing a tick

  • Use fine-tipped tweezers to remove a tick. If you don't have tweezers, put on gloves or cover your hands with tissue paper, and then use your fingers. Do not handle the tick with bare hands.
    • Grab the tick as close to its mouth (the part that is stuck in your skin) as you can.
    • Gently pull the tick straight out until its mouth lets go of your skin. Do not twist or "unscrew" the tick.
  • Do not try to smother a tick on your skin with petroleum jelly, nail polish, gasoline, or rubbing alcohol. This may raise your risk of infection.
  • Do not try to burn the tick while it is attached to your skin.

Preventing tick bites

  • When you return home from areas where ticks might live, carefully examine your skin and scalp for ticks. Try using a full-length mirror to look at all parts of your body. Check your children too.
  • Ticks can come into your house on clothing, outdoor gear, and pets. These ticks can fall off and attach to you.
    • Check your clothing and outdoor gear. Remove any ticks you find. Then put your clothing in a clothes dryer on high heat for 1 hour to kill any ticks that might remain.
    • Check your pets for ticks after they have been outdoors.
  • Put on insect repellent. Follow the directions on the label, especially when putting repellent on children.
  • Cover as much of your skin as you can when working or playing in grassy or wooded areas. Wear a hat, a long-sleeved shirt, and long pants with the legs tucked into your socks.
  • Wear light-coloured clothes to make it easier to spot a tick.
  • Wear gloves when you handle animals or work in the woods.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the area.
    • Pus draining from the area.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • Your symptoms become more severe or more frequent.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/ed

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