Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Birthmarks are abnormal skin discolorations in spots that are either present at birth or appear shortly thereafter. They can be flat or slightly raised from the skin. They can be any number of colors, including red, brown, black, tan, pink, white or purple. Birthmarks are generally harmless. There are two major categories of birthmarks: pigmented birthmarks and red birthmarks.

Pigmented Birthmarks can grow anywhere on the skin and at any time. They are usually black, brown or skin-colored and appear singly or in groups. They can be moles (congenital nevi) that are present at birth, Mongolian spots, which look like bluish bruises and appear more frequently on people with dark skin, or café-au-lait spots that are flat, light brown or tan and roughly form an oval shape.

Red Birthmarks (also known as macular stains) develop before or shortly after birth and are related to the vascular (blood vessel) system. There are a number of different types:

  • Angel kisses, which usually appear on the forehead and eyelids.
  • Stork bites, which appear on the back of the neck, between the eyebrows on the forehead, or on eyelids of newborns. They may fade away as the child grows, but often persist into adulthood.
  • Port-wine stains, which are flat deep-red or purple birthmarks made up of dilated blood capillaries (small blood vessels). They often appear on the face and are permanent.
  • Strawberry hemangiomas, composed of small, closely packed blood vessels that grow rapidly and can appear anywhere on the body. They usually disappear by age nine.
  • Cavernous hemangiomas are similar to strawberry hemangiomas but go more deeply into the layers of the skin. These can often be characterized by a bluish-purple color. They also tend to disappear naturally around school age.

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Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is a bacterial infection transmitted by ticks. It is relatively rare, but can cause serious damage to the heart, lungs and brain. The difficulty lies in diagnosis because many people are unaware that they've been bitten by a tick. Three types of ticks transmit the Rickettsia rickettsii bacteria:

  • Dog ticks, usually in the Eastern part of the country,
  • Wood ticks, usually in the Rocky Mountain states, and
  • Lone star ticks, usually on the West coast.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is characterized by a rash that begins as small red spots or blotches on the wrists, ankles, palms or soles of the feet. It spreads up the arms and legs to the trunk of the body. These symptoms take between one and two weeks to appear following a tick bite. The rash is often accompanied by fever, chills, muscle ache, red eyes, light sensitivity, excessive thirst, loss of appetite, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and/or fatigue. While there are lab tests your doctor can use to diagnose the disease, they take time to complete, so you may be placed on a course of antibiotic treatment right away.

The best way to prevent Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is to avoid tick-infested areas. If you spend any time in areas with woods, tall grasses or shrubs, wear long sleeves and pants. Tuck pants legs into socks. Wear closed shoes, not sandals. Do a visual check of each member of your family upon returning home. And don't forget to check your dog for ticks (if applicable).

If you do find a tick, don't panic. Use tweezers to disengage the tick from the skin. Grab the tick by the head or mouthparts as close as possible to where the bite has entered the skin. Pull firmly and steadily away from the skin until the tick disengages. Clean the bite wound with disinfectant and monitor the bite mark for other symptoms. You can place the tick in a jar or plastic bag and take it to your dermatologist for examination. Because less than one percent of tick bites transmit this bacteria, antibiotics are not generally prescribed unless there are other symptoms present.