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Bacterial and Viral Rashes

Life-Threatening Rashes continued...

Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) is a disease spread by tick bites, but often the child and parent may not remember any bite. The ticks carry infection with the bacteria Rickettsia rickettsii. In spite of its name, it is much more common in the south-Atlantic and Southeast than in the Rocky Mountains. It tends to occur in the warmer months of April through September when ticks are more active and outdoor exposures are more likely to occur. Rocky Mountain spotted fever can be fatal, but with early use of antibiotics, this is much less common today.

  • Symptoms
    • About 2-14 days after the tick bite, the child develops a sudden high temperature (103°F or more), headache, muscle aches, and rash.
    • The rash usually appears on the second or third day of the illness.
    • The rash begins as red spots on the wrists and ankles and spreads inward to the trunk.
    • It may involve the palms of the hands and soles of the feet but usually does not involve the face.
    • As the rash progresses, it becomes petechial with red dots or even small bruises.
  • Treatment
    • Go to the hospital if you suspect your child has RMSF or with any tick bite.
    • RMSF treatment must be started early, even before the blood tests become available. It may take several days to confirm the diagnosis.
    • Most children are put in the hospital and given antibiotics.
  • Prevention
    • The most effective means to prevent Rocky Mountain spotted fever and many other tick-transmitted diseases (such as Lyme disease or ehrlichiosis) is to keep from getting bitten by ticks.
      • When outdoors, dress in light colors that make it easier to see ticks if they attach themselves.
      • Wear long sleeves and long pants, tucking the pant legs into the socks.
      • Check for ticks on your body periodically, paying special attention to the scalp, underarms, and genital areas.
      • Use an insect repellent that is effective against ticks.
      • Never use a concentration of DEET (N, N-diethyltoluamide) higher than 10%, and never apply it to the skin.
      • Apply the insect repellent to the shirt collar, sleeves, and pants.
    • Once a tick has attached itself to you or your child, it should be promptly removed.
      • Gently grab the tick close to the skin (to include the head) and apply a gentle tug.
      • Hold this gentle tension until the tick releases. This may take several minutes.
      • Cleanse the bite area with alcohol and call your doctor immediately.
      • Avoid the old home remedies of applying lighter fluid, petroleum jelly, gasoline, or a lit match to kill a tick. Once the tick is dead, the mouth parts may stay in the wound and greatly increase the risk of disease.
    • Ticks can also be brought into your home by your pets, so be sure to have your veterinarian check your pet regularly and ask about products to reduce the risk.

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WebMD Medical Reference from eMedicineHealth

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