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What are The Symptoms of Tick-Borne Illnesses?

Written by Portland Clinic of Natural Health on September 25, 2023

Understanding the Symptoms of Tick-Borne Illnesses

Ticks are tiny arachnids that latch onto the skin and feed on blood. While many tick bites result in little more than an itchy bump, some ticks carry bacteria, viruses, or parasites that can cause illnesses in humans. Recognizing the symptoms of tick-borne diseases can be crucial for prompt diagnosis and treatment. Let’s take a closer look.

Common Tick-Borne Diseases and Their Symptoms

1. Lyme Disease (1)
Caused by: Bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi and others)

  • "Bull’s-eye" rash: A red rash with a central clearing that appears within 3-30 days of a tick bite.
  • Flu-like symptoms: Fever, chills, fatigue, body aches, headache, neck stiffness, and swollen lymph nodes.
  • If left untreated: Joint pain, neurological problems, and facial palsy.

2. Anaplasmosis (2)
Caused by: Bacteria (Anaplasma phagocytophilum)

  • Fever, chills
  • Severe headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting
  • Respiratory symptoms

3. Babesiosis (3)
Caused by: Protozoan parasites

  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Fatigue
  • Hemolytic anemia (destruction of red blood cells)
  • Dark urine

4. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) (4)
Caused by: Bacteria (Rickettsia rickettsii)

  • Fever, headache, and muscle pain
  • Rash (spotty and red, often starts on the wrists, forearms, and ankles, then spreads)
  • Nausea, vomiting

5. Ehrlichiosis (5)
Caused by: Bacteria (Ehrlichia species)

  • Fever, chills
  • Severe headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite

Prevention and Early Detection

While many tick-borne diseases share flu-like symptoms, they can be differentiated by certain signs, duration, and regional prevalence. If you’ve been bitten by a tick or have been in tick-infested areas and develop any of the symptoms listed above, it's crucial to see a doctor immediately. Early detection often leads to more effective treatment.

To reduce the risk of tick-borne illnesses:

  • Use insect repellents that contain DEET or other effective compounds.
  • Wear long sleeves and pants when in tick-prone areas.
  • Regularly check yourself, children, and pets for ticks.
  • Remove ticks as soon as possible using fine-tipped tweezers.

Ticks are more than just pesky critters; they can be carriers of dangerous illnesses. Awareness of the symptoms associated with tick-borne diseases can be the difference between timely treatment and long-term complications. Always prioritize prevention and stay informed for your health and safety.

The Challenge of Diagnosing Tick-Borne Illnesses

The diagnostic challenge of tick-borne diseases is multifaceted. Firstly, many of the initial symptoms, such as fatigue, fever, and muscle aches, are non-specific and can resemble other common illnesses like the flu. This overlap can make it difficult for both patients and healthcare professionals to immediately consider a tick-borne illness. Furthermore, not everyone with Lyme disease, for example, gets the hallmark "bull’s-eye" rash, making it easier to misdiagnose or overlook.

In addition, tick bites are often painless, and the ticks themselves can be very small, leading many people to be unaware they were even bitten. Coupled with the fact that diagnostic tests can sometimes yield false negatives or may not detect newer or less common pathogens, many tick-borne illnesses can go undiagnosed for long periods. Delays in diagnosis can result in more severe symptoms and complications, underscoring the importance of heightened awareness and early intervention.

Expertise in Tick-Borne Illnesses at Portland Clinic of Natural Health

At Portland Clinic of Natural Health, we recognize the complexities and nuances associated with tick-borne illnesses, especially Lyme disease. Our team is dedicated to staying abreast of the latest research, diagnostic techniques, and treatments in the field. By combining conventional diagnostic methods with holistic approaches, we provide a comprehensive assessment and individualized treatment plans for our patients.

Our clinic emphasizes the integration of natural therapies, nutrition, and lifestyle changes, alongside any necessary medical interventions, to support the body's inherent healing capabilities. Our patient-centered approach ensures that each individual receives attentive, personalized care, optimizing their path to recovery and health. Whether you're seeking a definitive diagnosis or a supportive therapeutic community, Portland Clinic of Natural Health is committed to guiding and supporting you throughout your healing journey.


  1. Skar GL, Simonsen KA. Lyme Disease. 2023 May 31. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan–. PMID: 28613720.
  2. Guzman N, Yarrarapu SNS, Beidas SO. Anaplasma Phagocytophilum. 2023 Aug 8. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan–. PMID: 30020713.
  3. Zimmer AJ, Simonsen KA. Babesiosis. 2023 Jul 31. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan–. PMID: 28613466.
  4. Snowden J, Simonsen KA. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (Rickettsia rickettsii). 2023 Jul 17. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan–. PMID: 28613631.
  5. Harkess JR. Ehrlichiosis. Infect Dis Clin North Am. 1991 Mar;5(1):37-51. PMID: 2051014.

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