What Are the Symptoms of Tick Bite Fever?

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  • Originally Written By: Nicole Long
  • Revised By: C. Mitchell
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 24 April 2020
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The symptoms of tick bite fever usually vary at least somewhat depending on the individual affected and the type of tick bite involved, but in general, telltale signs are a black mark at the bite site, a rash that spreads outward from that site, and a fever. Ulcers and headaches are also commonly reported, as is an overall feeling of illness. In most cases, symptoms start appearing within a week of the bite, but it can take up to 10 days. It’s usually really important for people who suspect they’ve been infected to get medical help right away. Tick bite fever is typically fairly easy to treat in its earliest stages, but depending on the strain, it can be life threatening the more time goes by.

Understanding Tick Bite Fever Generally

Ticks are small eight-legged members of the arachnid family that can and often do carry a number of different diseases that can affect the humans and animals they bite. Most of the time, the infection is transmitted through the tick’s saliva as it draws blood from its host. The disease known commonly as “tick bite fever” has been documented all over the world, but often goes by different names in different places. For instance, in the United States this condition is commonly referred to as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, but in Australia, it may be referred to as Queensland tick typhus.

It is caused by the Rickettsial family of bacteria. Typically, ticks responsible for the transmission of this bacteria can be found in wilderness areas where tall grass are prevalent. The disease is distinct from and should not be confused with Lyme disease, another tick-borne illness.

Visible Marks and Rashes

The first noticeable symptoms of tick bite fever are usually black marks at the bite sites. These often resemble a small ulcer or spider bite. Rashes are also common. The rash can spread over the entire body, but it typically originates on the arms and legs and then moves towards the chest, stomach, and back area.

Fever and Headache

Afflicted people typically also run a fever, usually within a few days of being bitten. Headaches ranging from mild to severe are common as well, leaving sufferers with a general feeling of illness and fatigue. If there is no mark or rash, these symptoms can be hard to trace back to tick bites, and they’re often mistaken for the flu.


The infection can grow and amplify in a person’s body if it isn’t treated promptly. Some of this has to do with the particular tick at issue, as well as the severity of the initial infection. For instance, those infected with certain strains of Rocky Mountain spotted fever can develop life-threatening symptoms if not treated. These can include pneumonia and brain damage. Complications are rare in patients bitten by ticks infected with other strains of bacteria.


Preventing tick bite fever is usually a matter of preventing tick bites generally, since it’s impossible to know at the outset which ticks are carriers and which aren’t. Most experts recommend that people living in tick zones use an insect repellent before heading out into wilderness or rural areas, and wearing long sleeves and pants can also serve as a deterrent. People who are spending time in long grasses are also usually advised to tuck their pant legs into their socks to minimize the amount of exposed skin.

Regularly checking for ticks is also really important. Unlike many insects that bite quickly and then depart, ticks usually latch on to their hosts and feed for a prolonged period, usually at least a few hours. The sooner these ticks are discovered and removed, the less severe symptoms are likely to be if the biting tick was a carrier.


In most cases, treatment is based on the severity of the infection and the patient’s health. Some patients will improve with no medical intervention, but most require at least some medication and medical monitoring. Antibiotics are most commonly prescribed to treat varying types of tick bite fever.

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Post 1

My cat got it, although some swear cats don't. Look for ticks between animals' toes.

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