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Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF)

Prevention

How can RMSF be prevented?

Limiting exposure to ticks reduces the likelihood of infection with RMSF. 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.

It is often unreasonable to assume that a person can completely eliminate activities that may result in tick exposure. Therefore, prevention measures should emphasize personal protection when exposed to natural areas where ticks are present:

long pants
  • Use a repellent with DEET (the chemical N-N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) or permethrin according to the instructions given on the product label. 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 intended for use on items such as clothing, shoes, bed nets and camping gear, and should not be applied to skin.
  • Wear long, light-colored pants tucked into your socks or boots, and a long-sleeved shirt. This may be difficult to do when the weather is hot, but it will help keep ticks away from your skin and help you spot a tick on your clothing faster.
  • Stay on cleared trails when walking or hiking, avoiding the edge habitat where ticks are likely to be.
  • Talk to your veterinarian about tick control options (tick collars, repellents) for your pets.
  • After spending time in an area likely to have ticks, check yourself, your children and pets for ticks. When doing a tick check, remember that ticks like places that are warm and moist. Always check the back of the knees, armpits, groin, scalp, back of the neck and behind the ears. If you find a tick attached to your body, remove it as soon as possible using a fine-point tweezers.

Removing Ticks Properly

tick removal techniques

Tick Removal FlyerPDF

  • Use tweezers to grasp tick by mouthparts
  • 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.
  • Avoid squeezing or crushing the tick
  • Wash the bite site w/ soap and water
  • Do not use hot matches, cigarettes, fingernail polish, petroleum jelly, etc. to remove or suffocate the tick
  • After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water
  • Flush the tick down the toilet. Do not throw a live tick in the trash

Know the symptoms of RMSF

If you have been someplace likely to have ticks and you develop symptoms of RMSF, or any other disease carried by ticks, see your health care provider right away.