Many tickborne diseases have similar signs and symptoms. Symptoms can present themselves between a few days and a few months later. If you develop the symptoms below following a tick bite, or even after expsoure to a tick habitat, a health care provider should be consulted. A course of treatment should be decided by your provider based on your symptoms, the geographic region in which you were bitten, and diagnostic tests. Early recognition and treatment of tickborne diseases decrease the risk of serious complications.
The most common symptoms of tickborne diseases are:
- Fever and/or chills: Patients can experience fever at varying degrees and time of onset.
- Aches and pains: Tickborne disease symptoms include headache, fatigue, and muscle aches. With Lyme disease you may also experience joint pain. The severity and time of onset of these symptoms can depend on the disease and the patient's personal tolerance level.
- Rash: Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia and ehrlichiosis can result in distinctive rashes.
- In Lyme disease the rash may appear within 3-30 days, typically before the onset of fever. The Lyme disease rash is the first sign of infection and is usually a circular rash called erythema migrans. This rash occurs in approximately 70-80% of infected persons and begins at the site of the tick bite.
The rash seen with Rocky Mountain spotted fever varies from person to person in appearance, location and time of onset. About 10% of people with Rocky Mountain spotted fever never develop a rash. Most often, the rash begins 2-5 days after onset of fever as small, flat, pink, non-itchy (macules) on the wrists, forearms, and ankles and spreads to the trunk. The red to purple, spotted (petechial) rash is usually not seen until the sixth day or later after onset of symptoms and occurs in 35-60% of patients.
- In the most common form of tularemia, a skin ulcer appears at the site where the organism entered the body. The ulcer is accompanied by swelling of regional lymph glands, usually in the armpit or groin.
- Ehrlichiosis can cause a rash in about 30% of patients, and up to 60% in children. The appearance of the rash ranges from macular to maculopapular to petechial and may appear after the onset of fever.