a lone star tick on the end of a finger

Q. You have written about ways to remove ticks. My advice to anyone who pulls off a tick is to save it. If you have symptoms, remember to take it to your doctor or the ER.

I forgot to take my saved tick, and the ER doctor refused to consider I might have tick fever. He said mid-March was too early for ticks!

I returned five days later, very ill with multi-organ involvement and remained hospitalized for a week. It took me three months to recuperate.

The follow-up blood test confirmed ehrlichiosis, a tick disease similar to Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which is also spread by the American dog tick. Several days of doxycycline when I first fell ill would have prevented my worsening illness and huge hospital bill.

A. Tick-borne fevers are becoming a major concern in many parts of the US. They include ehrlichiosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, as well as Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, babesiosis and southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI). Some can cause very serious illness.

It might not have made a difference if you had taken the tick with you, but at least you could have proven to the doctor that you had removed a tick. Headache and fever within days or weeks of tick exposure could be symptoms of tick-borne illness.

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  1. Paulbyr

    My online medical records at Duke Medical Ctr. clearly show that I have a prescription for a strong anti-itch creme for use “as needed on tick bites”. It seemed to have impressed my internist because he ordered a blood test for Lyme when I complained of foot numbness. It was negative for Lyme.
    I watch for the redness and /or red bulls-eye pattern around my tick bits (about 10 to 20 each year). One internist told me that Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever was more prevalent in our area (Raleigh, NC) than Lyme. He said watch for rash, redness or itching on palms.

  2. rth

    This could be my story!
    I told doctors at an urgent care facility, then my internist, the a doctor in the ER, and during my hospital stay three infectious disease specialists I believed I may have been bitten by a tick and all refused to believe there could be a tick bite in GA in late December. They never tested me for all tick borne fevers depspite my request.
    I too was very ill running a fever as high as 107 with complications. I had a lengthy hospital stay and a recovery time of months…all because no one would address my tick bite concerns and simply give me a $4 prescription for doxycycline as a precaution.
    It was only because the hospital lab sent my blood to the state health dept based on my continued tick bite concerns that my blood was tested for tick borne fevers and a diagnosis of ehrlichiosis was confirmed.

  3. jcarp

    I removed a tick attached to my scrotum after a walk near a lake in Chapel Hill 2 years ago. I was able to ID it as a “Lone Star” variety from an insect book, but did not take it to the ER after I developed a fever and couldn’t move my neck, but I had put on the calender the removal date and it was a week. Dr. there said it takes at least a week to send it to AZ. for ID, but in the mean time after a spinal tap (unnecessary), I was started on anti-biotics immediately and hopefully am fine now. The Dr. said the anti-biotics were the universal treatment, but I was never fully diagnosed with a specific disease, and got the impression it didn’t matter!

  4. Greg Pharmacy Student

    A friend of mine had his 2 year-old grandson visiting for the short time not long ago. They went to the zoo and he played outside with the sprinkler near the small woods in the backyard.
    He developed what looked like mosquito bites that wouldn’t heal. The doctor later determined he had the beginnings of Lyme Disease.
    He’s on antibiotics for 21 days, but he’ll be fine.

  5. rmh

    Yes, save any ticks you have removed. An epidemiologist told me years ago that a good treatment facility will take the tick and test it to see if it carries a disease, and if so, which one. However, most facilities, even in tick-infested areas, seem to have little or no knowledge or interest in trying to determine the likelihood of infection before one develops the actual symptoms.
    The advent of the corporate hospital and corporate medical practice, where the emphasis is on gross income, rather than quick and successful treatment, are following the social trend here towards more and more expensive treatments, many unnecessary.

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