Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit, the AAFP patient education website.

Information from Your Family Doctor

Tick-Borne Relapsing Fever: What You Should Know


Am Fam Physician. 2005 Nov 15;72(10):2046.

  See related article on tick-borne relapsing fever.

What is tick-borne relapsing fever?

Tick-borne relapsing fever (or TBRF, for short) is an illness caused by a bite from ticks that have a germ called Borrelia (say: buh-REL-ee-uh). If you have TBRF, you probably have fevers that come and go. You also might have headaches and stomachaches. Your body might be sore, and your neck might feel stiff. You also might throw up and have diarrhea.

How do I know if I have TBRF?

If you have gone hiking or camping recently and have any of the symptoms listed above, you might have TBRF. You also are at risk if you have had tick bites or if you have found ticks on your body. If you think you have TBRF, see your doctor right away. He or she can test your blood and tell if you have TBRF.

What can I do if I have TBRF?

Your doctor can give you medicine to help you get better. You might have to spend a day in the hospital so that your doctor can make sure you are well.

How can I keep from getting TBRF?

You can protect yourself from TBRF by wearing protective clothing in places where ticks might be (see drawing below). You also should use bug spray with DEET to keep ticks from biting you. Talk to your doctor before you use bug spray on your child. Your doctor can give you more information on what type and strength of bug spray to use.

This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.


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