What is Tick Fever?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Tick fever is a general term for several related conditions that include symptoms similar to those of a bad cold or flu. The ailment is mainly confined to the Western Hemisphere and can be spread through any type of tick. In the United States, tick fever is often caused by contact with a dog tick or a deer tick.

A long lasting, high fever is a symptom of tick fever.
A long lasting, high fever is a symptom of tick fever.

The symptoms of tick fever are much like those experienced before and during a severe cold. A high temperature is the most common symptom, usually accompanied by a pounding headache and a sense of pain running through the muscles of the body. It is not unusual for an individual suffering with tick fever to also develop chills and night sweats during the course of the illness. At some point, there is an excellent chance that a moderate to sever rash will develop as well.

Tick fever often causes headaches.
Tick fever often causes headaches.

People who spend a lot of time in tick-infested areas such as forests are much more likely to contract tick fever. To help minimize the chance of coming into contact with ticks, it is a good idea to cover as much of the body as possible when hunting or spending time in the wild. In order for a tick to attach to the skin, it is necessary to have direct contact. Protective clothing makes that level of contact impossible.

Tick fever is often caused by coming into contact with deer ticks.
Tick fever is often caused by coming into contact with deer ticks.

Even when protective clothing is worn, it is still a good idea to inspect the body after a day in the woods. In addition to looking for ticks, also be aware of any areas that appear to have sustained a small bite. This usually will have the appearance of a tiny puncture that is upraised and slightly discolored in comparison to the rest of the skin.

When deer ticks bite they can spread neurotoxins to humans.
When deer ticks bite they can spread neurotoxins to humans.

Just before taking a bath or shower, visually inspect the areas of the body that were left exposed, such as the hands, wrists, neck, and face. Also pay close attention to areas of the body that could have experienced momentary exposure, such as areas of the leg that may have been exposed if the pant leg rode up over the top of the boot at some point. As a final step, inspect areas of the body where the chance of exposure was highly unlikely.

Seeking medical treatment quickly is important. One of the results of tick fever is that the condition may cause inflammation of the blood vessels, which in turn may lead to a an increased risk of problems with circulation and blood clots. Fortunately, antibiotics are often very helpful in the early stages, both in terms of minimizing the severity of the outward symptoms and preventing any permanent damage from occurring.

Depending on their sex and type, ticks can expand to different sizes -- as big as a grape or as small as an apple seed -- when feeding on blood.
Depending on their sex and type, ticks can expand to different sizes -- as big as a grape or as small as an apple seed -- when feeding on blood.
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


I contracted tick fever in the spring of 2016. Was sick for nearly three months. My doctor said I'll have re-occurrences of the fever every year around the anniversary date of the original illness. She was right, going through the same symptoms now.


I read all the comments but didn't find any info on the occurrence of the symptoms after you have tick fever once and get over it. Does it just come back every now and then?


My husband and I both have had it. It lasted about a week. We lost a whole week in different times of the summer.

Well, a friend said have you tried horse wormer? So we did and guess it must have done the trick. it was a very safeguard horse wormer. so every spring we take just a little, enough for our weight. Keeps the bugs out of your blood. That's what happens when you get the fever. a bug gets in there and your body tries to fight it. Also our dogs gets a bit, too. good luck.


My dad was finally diagnosed about four year ago with tick fever. He nearly died because no one knew what was wrong. Now he is very sick having a lot of the same symptoms as he had before.

We thought he was having a heart attack but all the tests and heart cath have come back normal. I wonder is it possible to have recurring symptoms that many years later? I understand it becomes a type of virus so could it flare up again?


I was diagnosed with Rocky Mountain tick fever. I was bitten this past June (it's now November), and waited to see the doctor (no rash, no fever) until October. The pain is pretty bad - still - in my leg and the knot from the tick bite is still swollen. They're treating the inflammation, but haven't put me on antibiotics. I'm now taking Darvocet and walking with a cane. Any advice?


Good article -- I'm glad that you mentioned how important it is to get tick fever treatment as soon as you start showing symptoms.

Tick bite fever in humans is usually treated with Doxycycline; dogs are usually prescribed antibiotics and a special diet to treat dog tick fever.

However, as the article said, getting treated quickly is key -- once the infection spreads, it becomes increasingly difficult to kill.


Dogs can also develop tick bite fever. The signs of tick bite fever in dogs include a fever, noticeably swollen lymph glands, loss of appetite and loss of energy.

Tick bite fever can be fatal in dogs, and can cause hemorrhaging as it reaches its advanced form.

If your dog has a nosebleed in conjunction with other symptoms, you should take him to the vet immediately, since it could be a sign of serious complications of canine tick bite fever.

You need to get yourself tested too -- humans can get tick bite fever from an infected dog.


When checking for tick bites, always remember to check areas where your clothes end -- your waistline, where the tops of your socks are, around your neck, etc.

Also, never forget to check behind the ears and along your hairline -- ticks are tricky little guys, and tick bite fever is something you don't want to mess with.

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