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Don’t miss these symptoms of tick-borne diseases. Treatment can prevent serious illness.

Ticks can transmit a variety of diseases to humans when they bite. And unfortunately, it’s not always that easy to tell when a tick is on your body, or even when one has bitten you because many ticks are so small.

Recognizing the symptoms of common tick-borne diseases makes it more likely you can get medical attention quickly if you have been bitten by a tick. Many tick-borne illnesses have similar symptoms, so if you have these symptoms after getting bitten by a tick, see a doctor:

  • Rash
  • Fever/chills
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches/joint pain
  • Fatigue
Here are specific symptoms associated with some of the more common tick-borne illnesses affecting people in the U.S.
Lyme disease

Deer ticks that carry borrelia bacteria, which causes Lyme disease, are found throughout most of the U.S., as well as Canada and Europe. If you spend time in grassy, brushy or wooded areas, you’re more at risk of contracting the disease. Symptoms include:

  • A rash that looks like a target or bulls-eye, spreading out from the site of the tick bite
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Joint stiffness
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Early symptoms usually appear within the first 30 days, although not everyone has obvious symptoms after getting Lyme disease. If the illness is not identified and treated during this stage, it can cause more serious and widespread disease.

Anaplasmosis and Ehrlichiosis

These are two closely related diseases that are transmitted to humans from the bite of an infected tick. The tick bite that causes these diseases is usually painless, and most people don’t even know they’ve been bitten. The most common symptoms include:

  • Fever/chills
  • Severe headache
  • Muscle aches

Less common symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss, abdominal pain, diarrhea, cough, aching joints, rash and change in mental status.


This is a malaria-like parasite that infects red blood cells and causes flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, headache, body aches, fatigue, loss of appetite and nausea. Some people may not have any symptoms.

Babesiosis can cause severe disease in older people, people who don’t have a spleen and those with compromised immune systems or other serious health conditions. It can even be fatal.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

This is a tick-borne disease transmitted by the American dog tick, the Rocky Mountain wood tick and the brown dog tick. The most common symptoms include:

  • Rash
  • Fever/chills
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Body aches
  • Stomach ache
  • Decreased appetite
  • Nausea/vomiting/diarrhea
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Confusion

If untreated, serious complications can occur, including nerve damage, paralysis, gangrene, hearing loss, incontinence and even death.

Powassan (POW)

This virus is spread by the same type of tick that spreads Lyme disease. Many people who develop powassan do not have any symptoms, but if they do, symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Confusion
  • Loss of coordination
  • Speech difficulties
  • Seizures

Severe infections may cause neurological symptoms, paralysis and even death.

Alpha-Gal Syndrome (AGS)

Alpha-gal syndrome is not a virus or bacterial infection but is an allergic reaction to a sugar found in the tissues of all mammals except humans and primates. The lone star tick can transmit AGS to humans, which can cause the immune system to produce antibodies.

There is no treatment for AGS but people who have the condition can prevent allergic reactions from occurring by not eating meat or other products containing alpha-gal. Levels of antibodies may decline over time, so some people may eventually be able to eat meat and products containing alpha-gal without an allergic reaction.

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Date Last Reviewed: March 19, 2024

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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