This is the time of year when many families head to the local pumpkin patch. What they might not know is that it’s not a place for shorts and open shoes, no matter how warm the weather is.

As Jennifer Velasquez wrote on Facebook, it is essential to wear long pants, socks, and shoes while visiting a pumpkin patch. And most of all, to check for ticks afterward.

Velasquez shared a photo of the rash that exploded all over her body after getting Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) from a tick at a pumpkin patch. She wrote:

This was me two years ago after being bit by a tick and contracting Rocky Mountain spotted fever at a pumpkin patch. I couldn’t walk, my whole body was in pain, my hair fell out, and I almost died. I’m still healing from all this. Don’t be dumb and wear flip flops like me.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), RMSF is a bacterial disease spread by ticks and can be found in all 50 states. However, it is most common in North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri.

The first symptom of RMSF is generally a high fever, followed by a rash (though not everyone will develop the rash). Other symptoms include headache, nausea, vomiting, muscle pain, stomach pains, and loss of appetite. The disease can be life-threatening or lead to permanent damage.

As the video below from WOIO News explains, preventing RMSF comes down to preventing tick bites. That means using insect repellent, dressing in long pants and sleeves, and checking for ticks. Ticks should be removed with tweezers and the affected area cleaned thoroughly. If you experience any symptoms of RMSF or a tick-borne disease, be sure to tell your doctor you were outdoors.

Unfortunately, Velasquez had difficulty getting treatment for her condition because of a lack of awareness about the rise in tick-borne diseases. She told Dearly she hopes her experience teaches people to advocate for themselves:

“I wasn’t tested for tick illnesses right away despite my symptoms, because I was told, ‘We don’t have ticks in southern California.'”

She added she’s still recovering from the effects of her illness:

“I do have residual autoimmune and GI issues from being untreated for so long. But I’m slowly getting better every day.”

Velasquez doesn’t blame the pumpkin patch for her illness, nor is she suggesting people stay away from patches or petting zoos. She just wants them to realize ticks can still be an issue, even in autumn or in areas that aren’t well known for tick bites. As she told Dearly:

“I just wanted to warn everyone. It’s in the 80s and 90s in San Diego right now, so we are all in shorts and flip flops. But with all the dirt, hay and farm animals for the petting zoos, and this being a very popular activity right now, I thought it was appropriate to mention.”

Watch the video below, via WOIO News:

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