Yes, you read correctly. Right here in Alabama.
Would you be surprised to know that RMSF is actually found all over the US? You wouldn’t think so because of its name, but it is only called that because it was first discovered in the Rockies. But it seems I have contracted this tick-born illness right here in my own back yard. Literally. While building my chicken coop.
In the vlog, I mentioned that I would share a little information about this illness. I think it is very important to know, because it is quite easy to get it, but fatal if not treated.
You see just over a week ago, I had a tick get on me. What was strange about it, was that it actually hurt when the cursed thing bit me. So my brain didn’t register “tick,” it registered OUCH!
So as a reflex action I grabbed the thing that was biting me, and ripped it off. NOT the proper way to remove a tick.
A couple days later, I developed a large ulcer/abscess/boil looking thing. That is not a symptom of RMSF, just of this rotten tick. It is the same thing that happened to poor Duke over the summer that led to a vet trip and meds for him. Same kind of tick, too. A brown dog tick. So I treated the ulcerous wound with raw honey and it began to heal.
Several days ago, (a few days after the tick bite) I began getting severe headaches. At the time I didn’t think anything of them, because the weather was very stormy and I get headaches any time it storms. But then the storms went away and my headaches didn’t.
The next symptom I got was a fever. It was a determined fever that would come back with a vengeance the moment my acetaminophen or ibuprofen wore off. So for about 36 hours I swung back and forth between extreme chills (while hot at the same time from the fever) to pouring sweat when the fever broke. It was miserable.
At about the same time, I began getting joint and muscle pain, particularly in my wrists and hands. At this point I was already suspecting that RMSF was a possibility. Then the fourth symptom started.
Spots all over my arms and legs. This was shortly followed by nausea and loss of appetite. When I saw those spots, my heart sank, because my suspicion instantly went from a “what if” to “I bet it’s…” Dang!
I immediately called my doctor and made an appointment to get in…in a hurry. When I saw the doctor, she concurred. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
Because it takes so long to get the labs back from the CDC to confirm a case of RMSF, and because it is a very dangerous illness, treatment is started at the very suspicion of it.
I have a textbook case of RMSF, however not everyone is the same, and not everyone shows all symptoms or even gets the rash!
Now anyone that knows me, knows that I am big on home remedies, herbal remedies, etc. I looked RMSF up…and every resource I looked at, said:
Go to the hospital…see your doctor immediately.
This illness can rapidly become fatal.
If you live anywhere that has ticks, have pets that could carry them in your house, if there is even the remotest of chances you could ever get exposed to Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever please educate yourself on the symptoms and signs.
Here are a couple links where you can get more information about RMSF.
While you are there, I’d take some time and learn about the other illnesses that they can carry as well. Information is a tool. I don’t believe in living in fear, I’m not going to become house-bound and terrified of nature. But as the saying goes, knowledge is power.
I could have dismissed my symptoms as the flu or something. Everyone thinks of Lyme’s disease and knows the symptoms…but I don’t think many would have had Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever on their radar. I know I certainly didn’t at first, until a friend brought it up at lunch. When my only symptoms were the headache & fever.
This was certainly not how I expected this week to end, that’s for sure!
RMSF UPDATE (November 2020)
Since posting this article & video several years ago, I have been reached out to by countless people who have asked about my treatment and recovery.
My doctor immediately put me on a course of Doxycycline. I was on the antibiotics for about 3 weeks. I was two weeks into it before I really began to feel even the slightest bit of improvement. The spots and fever went away after about a week and a half.
The worst part of my experience continued to be the joint pain in my hands and forearms. The pain in my hands was so severe, I described it as feeling like they had been beaten with a hammer.
The utter exhaustion was the other part. I had zero energy. I spent most of my day, sitting in the recliner and discovering new shows on Netflix. I felt like a slug, but there was nothing I could do about it.
It took about month for me to feel back to normal, and close to 2 months before I felt like I had my energy fully back.
For the most part, I recovered fully. However, I discovered that the joint pain would flare-up. I never used to have joint pain, but it suddenly seemed like I had developed arthritis in my hands. Most days I was fine, but some days my hands were barely usable.
I spent a great deal of time researching this particular development. I found case studies of RMSF patients having the same sort of long-term or even permanent effects, though it seemed to be extremely rare.
I began using a blend of oils for relief, as I am not a fan of taking pain killers or medications, unless I absolutely have to. The oils helped a great deal.
A couple years later, I decided to begin following a low-carb, paleo eating plan. When I did that, my joint pain stopped completely, and I had no further flare-ups…unless I “cheated” and ate carb-heavy foods. If I do that, like clockwork, I get up the next morning with horribly stiff and painful hands.
I feel very blessed that my recovery was relatively textbook. I have been contacted by many people who have not had such an easy go of it. I attribute it to the fact that it was caught very quickly, and my doctor didn’t dismiss my suggestion as being overly dramatic. She put me on the antibiotics immediately, and I believe that helped me recover as I did.