Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF)


Prevention begins with you! Limiting exposure to ticks is the most effective method of prevention of tick-transmitted diseases. In persons exposed to tick-infested habitats, prompt, careful inspection and removal of crawling or attached ticks is an important method of preventing disease. It may take several hours of attachment before the organisms are transmitted from the tick to the host.

Avoiding Tick Habitats

Ticks can live in many places in our yards. The Brown Dog tick can live indoor, outdoor, or near homes where dogs live. Take the following precautions to remove tick habitats around places we play, work, and live:

  • Remove leaf litter
  • Clear tall grasses and brush around homes and at the edge of lawns
  • Remove old furniture, mattresses, or trash from the yard that may give ticks a place to hide
  • Mow the lawn frequently.
  • Stack wood neatly and in a dry area
  • Discourage unwelcome animals (such as stray dogs) from entering your yard by constructing fences.

Tick Control and Management

The best strategy to control ticks is to use products that are effective for killing ticks and are safest for people and animals:

  • Indoor
    • Apply indoor pesticides if ticks are suspected
  • Outdoor
    • Apply pesticides to areas where ticks are likely to be found in the yard
      • Sprays, granules, or dusts for your yard
    • Apply pesticides often and all year around
    • Remove tick habitats in the yard including: leaf litter, brush, and yard clutter

Apply Tick Repellants

Repellents with DEET or permethrin should be used when you are going to be in a possible tick-infested area (use products according to the instructions given on the label).

Warning when using chemical repellants:

  • DEET products should not be used on infants under two months of age and should be used in concentrations of 30% or less on older children
  • Permethrin products are for use on clothing, shoes, bed nets and camping gear, and should not be applied to skin

To Avoid Tick Bites

  • Wear protective clothing
  • Wear long light-colored clothing.
    • This will help keep ticks away from your skin and help you spot a tick on your clothing faster.
  • Tuck in your pant legs into your socks
    • Ticks cannot crawl up the inside of your pant legs and will prevent tick attachment to your skin.
  • Wash and dry clothing (at a high temperature) that has been worn while outside or in an area likely to have ticks when you get home.

Conduct Tick Checks Frequently

After spending time in an area likely to have ticks, check yourself, your children, and your pets for ticks. Ticks like warm and moist places; therefore, always check the back of knees, armpits, groin, scalp, back of neck and behind the ears.

Manage ticks on dogs

The best way to prevent RMSF in dogs is to prevent tick attachment

  • Use spot-on treatments, tick collars, sprays, or dips to protect your dog
  • Keep dogs in fenced, escape proof yards
  • Safely tie-out dogs in areas without fences
  • Spay and neuter dogs to prevent overpopulation
  • Treat ill dogs
  • Notify authorities about unwanted and uncared for dogs

Make sure to check your dog for ticks in and around the ear canal, groin, and armpits before letting them indoors.

Removing Attached Ticks Immediately

  1. Use tweezers to grasp tick as close to the skin’s surface and to the tick’s mouthparts as possible
  2. Pull gently straight-out. Don't twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
    1. Do not use matches, cigarettes, fingernail polish, petroleum jelly, etc. to remove or suffocate the tick
  3. Do not squeeze or crush the tick
  4. After removing the tick, clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water
  5. Flush the tick down the toilet. Do not throw a live tick in the trash.

Know the Symptoms of RMSF

Symptoms usually begin with a fever and severe headache. The first symptoms of RMSF typically begin about 5 days after the bite of an infected tick; however, symptoms may appear anywhere between 2 and 14 days.

Other possible symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Rash (occurs 2-5 days after fever, but may be absent in some cases)
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Lack of appetite
  • Conjunctival injection (red eyes)