STARI (Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness) is a rash that is similar in appearance to that of Lyme disease that manifests following the bite of a lonestar tick. The incidence of STARI is increasing in areas where the lone star tick is prevalent. So what do you need to know about STARI? What causes it? What are the symptoms? How is it treated? Get the answers to these frequently asked questions and others, as well as tips to prevent tick bites in general.

What is STARI?

STARI stands for Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness. It is a rash that follows the bite of a lone star tick that is similar in appearance to the rash caused by Lyme disease.

What causes STARI?

There is no known cause of STARI. It does, however, usually follow the bite of a lone star tick (Amblyomma americanum). The lone star tick does NOT cause Lyme disease.

What do lone star ticks look like?

Female lone star ticks are recognizable by a single white dot in the center of their brown bodies. Males have spots or streaks of white around the outer edge of their bodies.

Where are lone star ticks found?

Lone star ticks are found throughout the eastern, southeastern, and south central states of the United States. According to the CDC, their distribution, range and abundance have all increased over the last 20-30 years. All three life stages of lone star ticks (larva, nymph, and adult) feed on humans and can be quite aggressive. They also feed on dogs and cats.

What are the symptoms of STARI?

The most prominent symptom of STARI is a red, bulls-eye shaped rash that develops around the tick bite itself. The rash usually presents itself within about 7 days of a tick bite and can expand to a diameter of 3 inches or more. People with STARI may also experience fatigue, headache, fever, muscle pain, and joint pain. Because the cause of STARI is unknown, there is no blood test to diagnose it. The diagnosis is made on the basis of symptoms and patient-reported tick bites.

How is STARI treated?

The STARI rash and subsequent other symptoms have been shown to resolve with the use of the oral antibiotic doxycycline.

How can STARI be prevented?

Because STARI is brought on by a tick bite, preventing tick bites is the best method of preventing the illness. Some tips for preventing ticks include:

  • Avoid areas where ticks are known to favor such as tall grasses, bushes, or wooded areas.
  • Treat your clothing and gear (boots, clothes, camping gear) with a product containing permethrin.
  • Try to walk in the center of trails rather than on the edges.
  • After being outdoors,check your clothing for ticks and remove them immediately. Wash clothes in hot water and dry them on high heat. Carefully examine coats and backpacks, as well.
  • Try to shower within 2 hours of coming indoors. This has been shown to decrease the risk of Lyme disease, as well as wash off any unattached ticks from your body.
  • Conduct a full body check once you come inside. Use a handheld or full length mirror to check all over, especially under your arms, in and around your ears, inside your belly button, on the backs of your knees, around your hair, in between your legs, and around your waist.
  • Use tick preventatives on your pets per your vet’s recommendations.
  • Check your pets for ticks daily, especially after they have been outdoors. Remove any ticks you find immediately. Make sure to check carefully around their ears, around their eyelids, under their collars, between their back legs, under their front legs, between their toes and around their tails.
  • Remove leaf litter and debris from your yard.
  • Clear any tall grasses and brush.
  • Install a 3 foot barrier of wood chips or gravel between your lawn and any wooded areas.
  • Keep your grass mowed frequently.
  • Stack firewood neatly and in a dry place.
  • Keep playground equipment, decks, and patios away from your yard edge or woods.
  • Use fencing to discourage deer, raccoons, stray dogs and other unwanted animals from coming into your yard.
  • Remove any old furniture, mattresses, and trash from your yard.

If you suspect you have a tick problem, call a professional pest control company who can help identify areas where ticks may be hiding and provide you with a thorough treatment and prevention plan to keep ticks out.