How to treat valley fever

Do you have any suggestions for treating Valley Fever?

How to treat valley fever

Valley Fever is an infection – usually of the lungs – caused by a fungus, Coccidioides immitis, found in the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. It was discovered in the San Joaquin Valley of California and is also sometimes called “San Joaquin Valley fever,” “desert fever,” or “desert rheumatism.”

Valley Fever is very common here in Arizona. We see a lot of infections in June and July and then again in October and November. In California, the “season” for Valley Fever runs from June through November. The fungus lives in the soil, and those most susceptible to infection are farm and construction workers as well as archeologists and others whose jobs involve disturbing the soil and who may inhale the spores.

More than 60 percent of all cases are so mild that those infected never feel sick and never know they have Valley Fever. Those who feel bad enough to go to the doctor usually complain of fatigue, cough, chest pain, fever, rash, headache, and joint aches. Most of the time no specific treatment is needed, just plenty of rest. However, I do suggest eating one or two cloves of raw garlic daily. Garlic has antibiotic and antifungal properties that may make it useful in counteracting fungal infections such as Valley Fever. You can make raw garlic more palatable by chopping it fine and mixing it with food. Or cut a clove into chunks and swallow them whole like pills (remember, a clove is one of the segments of a head or bulb of garlic).

About five percent of cases of Valley Fever lead to pneumonia or other breathing problems that require treatment, typically with Diflucan (fluconazole), a strong prescription antifungal drug. Side effects of this medication can include nausea, vomiting or abdominal pain, diarrhea, headache, or rash. Be sure to tell your physician about any severe or unusual side effects. In rare cases, Diflucan can cause liver damage, and before taking it women should be sure to tell their doctor if they’re pregnant or think they might be. The drug can damage the fetus although potential benefits may warrant use of the drug in pregnant women despite potential risks. In an even smaller percentage of cases of Valley Fever, the infection becomes generalized and potentially life-threatening, requiring more drastic treatment.

The best way to deal with Valley Fever would be a vaccine to prevent it. Researchers at the Valley Fever Center for Excellence here in Tucson (one of several such centers in the southwest and California) are working on a vaccine. Let’s hope they find one soon.

Valley fever is a disease caused by the Coccidioides fungus. It thrives in dry, dusty areas particularly in the southwestern United States. It is important to know if you live in an area where the fungus tends to thrive as a huge part of prevention is knowing that you may be at risk. Those who live in Arizona, Southern California, Nevada, Utah and New Mexico are all at risk locations and even visitors can be exposed to the fungus. Thankfully it is not contagious – you cannot spread it to others nor can you get it from an infected person.

About forty percent of the people who have been infected with valley fever will never show symptoms, those that do are likely to think they have the flu. If you begin to show symptoms of skin lesions you should seek medical attention immediately – disseminated valley fever can kill you.

What are the symptoms of Valley Fever?

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Chest pain that varies from mild constriction to feeling like a heart attack
  • Chills
  • Night sweats
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Joint ache
  • Red rash
  • Spotty rash
  • Red bumps that turn brown
  • Red rash with blisters
  • Red rash with pimples

If you develop the following symptoms seek medical attention immediately:

  • Skin lesions
  • Ulcers
  • Large nodules
  • Painful, swollen joints

Be sure you tell your doctor if you have been to a place where valley fever is endemic such as Arizona.

How can I prevent Valley Fever?

The best ways to prevent valley fever are common sense precautions. It is most prevalent during the summer months when it is dry.

  • Wear a mask.
  • Stay inside during dust storms
  • Wet the soil before digging to drown spores.
  • Keep doors and windows tightly closed

What You Need To Know

  • Valley fever is a serious, costly illness.
  • The fungus that causes Valley fever is found in soil in the southwestern United States, parts of Mexico and Central America, and parts of South America. It has also been found in south-central Washington state.
  • The symptoms of Valley fever can be similar to those of other respiratory illnesses.
  • People who have symptoms of Valley fever and live in or have visited an area where the fungus is common should ask their doctor to test them for Valley fever.

How to treat valley fever

Valley fever is a fungal lung infection that can be devastating. Learning about Valley fever can help you and your doctor recognize the symptoms early.

Valley fever is an infection caused by a fungus that lives in the soil. About 15,000 cases are reported in the United States each year, mostly from Arizona and California. Valley fever can be misdiagnosed because its symptoms are similar to those of other respiratory illnesses. Here are some important things to know about Valley fever, also called coccidioidomycosis.

From Soil To Lungs

The fungus that causes Valley fever, Coccidioides, is found in soil in the southwestern United States (see map), parts of Mexico and Central America, and parts of South America. It has also been found in south-central Washington State. The fungus might also live in similar areas with hot, dry climates. People can get Valley fever by breathing in the microscopic fungus from the air in these areas. Valley fever does not spread from person to person.

Common Symptoms May Lead To Delayed Diagnosis

Many people who are exposed to the fungus never have symptoms. Other people may have symptoms that include:

  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headache
  • Night sweats
  • Muscle aches or joint pain
  • Rash on upper body or legs

The symptoms of Valley fever can be similar to those of other respiratory illnesses, which may cause delays in diagnosis and treatment. For many people, symptoms go away within weeks or months without any treatment. But healthcare providers may prescribe antifungal medicine for some people to reduce symptoms or prevent the infection from getting worse. People who have severe lung infections or infections that have spread to other parts of the body always need antifungal treatment and may need to stay in the hospital.

People At Risk

Valley fever is a serious, costly illness
  • Nearly 75% of people with Valley fever miss work or school
  • As many as 40% of people who get Valley fever are hospitalized
  • The average cost of a hospital stay for a person with Valley fever is almost $50,000
  • About 60–80% of patients with Valley fever are given one or more rounds of antibiotics before receiving a correct diagnosis and appropriate treatment

Anyone can get Valley fever if they live in or travel to an area where the fungus lives in the environment. Valley fever can affect people of any age, but it’s most common in adults aged 60 and older. Also, certain groups of people may be at higher risk for developing the severe forms of Valley fever, such as:

  • People who have weakened immune systems, which may include people who:
    • Have HIV
    • Have had an organ transplant
    • Are taking medications such as corticosteroids or tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors
  • Pregnant people
  • People who have diabetes
  • People who are Black or Filipino

Awareness Is Key

In areas where Valley fever is common, it’s difficult to completely avoid exposure to the fungus because it is in the environment. There is no vaccine to prevent infection. That’s why knowing about Valley fever is one of the most important ways to avoid delays in diagnosis and treatment. People who have symptoms of Valley fever and live in or have visited an area where the fungus is common should ask their doctor to test them for Valley fever. Healthcare providers should be aware that Valley fever symptoms are similar to those of other respiratory illnesses and should consider testing for Valley fever in patients with pneumonia symptoms who live in or have traveled to an area where Coccidioides lives.

What CDC Is Doing

  • Raising awareness. CDC, state and local health departments, and other agencies are working together to educate the public and healthcare providers about Valley fever to reduce delays in diagnosis and treatment and to improve people’s health.
  • Surveillance. In many states, healthcare providers and laboratories are required to report Valley fever cases to public health authorities. Disease reporting allows government officials to monitor trends in Valley fever cases and to examine the burden of disease, like cost.
  • Advanced molecular detection. CDC has been developing new tools that make it faster and easier to detect Coccidioides, the fungus that causes Valley fever, in the environment. CDC is also using whole genome sequencing on environmental and patient samples to investigate new areas where this fungus is living and causing illness.
  • Research on testing and treatment. CDC is studying new tests to diagnose Valley fever faster and is assisting other health agencies with studies to understand the best treatment for Valley fever.

How to treat valley fever

This map shows CDC’s current estimate of where the fungus that causes Valley fever lives in the environment in the United States. The fungus is not distributed evenly in the shaded areas, might not be present everywhere in the shaded areas, and can also be outside the shaded areas. Darker shading shows areas where the fungus is more likely to live. Diagonal lines show the potential range of the fungus.

How to treat valley fever

  • 1. Aloe Vera Soothes The Rash.
  • 2. Essential Oils Are An Effective Cure.
  • 3. Flaxseeds Are Good For The Bones.
  • 4. Hot/Cold Compression Reduces Joint Pain.
  • 5. Chamomile Tea Treats Valley Fever Symptoms.
  • 6. Ginger Tea Is A Natural Valley Fever Treatment.
  • 7. Honey Cures The Signs Of Valley Fever.

Any person can be at risk of valley fever. The fungus causing this condition lives in dirt and travels through the air. Inhaling the contaminated air can lead to severe valley fever symptoms including joint pain, persistent cough, and fever. The condition seems familiar, but exactly what is valley fever and is there a natural treatment for it?

Also known as coccidioidomycosis, it’s a fungal infection caused by the Coccidioides fungi that multiplies in the soil and contaminates the air or dust you breathe. When you inhale the spores of the fungus, they start reproducing inside the body. A weaker immune system isn’t able to fight the fungus – leading to the fever. The disease isn’t contagious, unlike other fungal infections. However, the symptoms are discomforting.

  • Fever and chills
  • Muscle ache, stiffness, and pain in joints
  • Night sweats
  • Fatigue
  • Red bumpy rashes on the upper body and legs
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath and cough
  • Swollen ankles, feet, and legs
  • Loss of appetite

1. Aloe Vera Soothes The Rash.

Aloe vera helps restrict the development of valley fever rash. So, apply some freshly squeezed gel for 15 minutes over the affected areas thrice daily for better treatment.

2. Essential Oils Are An Effective Cure.

An essential oil blend soothes the valley fever rash. Therefore, take 3 drops of geranium and rose essential oils and mix it in half a teaspoon of coconut oil. Apply on the rashes and soothe the condition.

3. Flaxseeds Are Good For The Bones.

The seeds contain Omega-3 fatty acids that help strengthen the muscles as well as bones. So, take a teaspoon of flaxseeds every day with a glass of water.

4. Hot/Cold Compression Reduces Joint Pain.

Hot/cold compression is an instant valley fever treatment. It relaxes the muscles and reduces the pain. Heat some water or add ice as per your choice. Soak a cloth in it. Drain out the excess water from the cloth. Keep it on the joints for 15 minutes.

5. Chamomile Tea Treats Valley Fever Symptoms.

A weak immune system leads to the development of the disease. So what is a sure shot valley fever treatment? Drink chamomile tea to strengthen the immunity. In a cup of hot water, add a chamomile tea bag. Cover the tea and steep it for 5 minutes. Drink twice daily.

6. Ginger Tea Is A Natural Valley Fever Treatment.

Ginger helps in decreasing inflammation in the body. Therefore, boil a teaspoon of ginger in a cup of water. Steep the tea for 5 minutes and then strain it. Drink twice every day to get rid of the fever.

7. Honey Cures The Signs Of Valley Fever.

Honey is antimicrobial. It is effective in reducing the valley fever symptoms. Mix a teaspoon of honey in a cup of lukewarm water and drink every day. But, make sure you do not give this to infants.

Note: Articles on Ayurvedum are solely for the purpose of sharing the goodness of Ayurveda and bringing awareness on natural and healthy living. Please do not substitute it for professional medical advice. Ingredients discussed can interfere with certain medications. So, before using anything to treat yourself, always consult an Ayurveda doctor or practitioner.

Also known as coccidioidomycosis

Krystina is a Technical Writer with a background in healthcare. She has spent the last 10 years working for an internationally recognized medical facility where she found her passion for making complicated topics easier to understand.

Ronald Lubelchek, MD, is a board-certified infectious disease specialist in Chicago, Illinois. He previously served as the Medical Director for Cook County’s ambulatory HIV clinic, one of the largest HIV clinics in the U.S.

Valley fever—also known as coccidioidomycosis —is an infection caused by exposure to the coccidioides fungus or mold, which is commonly found in the desert of the southwestern United States. Though not contagious, valley fever can cause symptoms like cough, fever, rashes, and tiredness just a few weeks after inhaling the fungus spores.

Cases of valley fever usually resolve on their own, but in more severe cases, healthcare providers will treat the infection with antifungal medications.

” data-caption=”” data-expand=”300″ data-tracking-container=”true” />

John Sirlin / EyeEm / Getty Images

Can Animals Get Valley Fever?

Humans aren’t the only species to come down with valley fever. Most mammals are capable of coming down with valley fever, dogs being the most common. However, valley fever has been identified in sea otters and dolphins as well.

What Is Valley Fever?

Valley fever is a disease caused by a fungus smaller than a speck of dust. This fungus is so tiny and lightweight, the slightest change in air movement can launch it into the air.

While valley fever is relatively rare in the United States as a whole, in the southwestern United States, it’s about as common as one in every 957 people. This means if you live in or travel through the southwestern United States, the chance of coming across coccidioides is high.

What Is the Medical Term for Valley Fever?

Coccidioidomycosis, or cocci for short, is the medical way to say “valley fever”—a common lung infection caused by the coccidioides fungus living in the soil in the desert southwest.

Since valley fever is from a fungus, it is not considered contagious. This fungus lives within the top 12 inches of dirt, making it easy to spread during dust storms, construction, and while driving down dirt roads.

Every year, Arizona experiences as many as 175 dust storms, which is one reason they may have the highest diagnosis rates for valley fever in the United States.

This condition affects more than just humans. It also affects the pets living in these regions—especially animals who spend most of their time outdoors or who frequently have their nose to the ground sniffing the dirt.

Where Is Valley Fever Found?

The fungus responsible for valley fever thrives in dry, desert soil, making it particularly common in:

  • Arizona
  • Southwest New Mexico
  • El Paso, Texas
  • Southern California
  • Eastern Washington

This fungus is also sometimes found in parts of Mexico, Central America, and South America.

Most Common Locations for Valley Fever

Here is a snapshot of where valley fever typically takes place:

  • Sixty percent of all valley fever infections will occur within Maricopa, Pinal, and Pima counties in Arizona.
  • Thirty percent of all value fever infections occur in Kern, San Luis Obispo, and Tulare counties in California.
  • Ten percent of all valley fever infections are found throughout southwestern United States, Washington, Mexico, and Central and South America.

Symptoms

While about 60% of people who contract valley fever will have no symptoms, the remaining 40% will show symptoms.

From the time you breathe in the fungal spore, it will take one to three weeks for symptoms to appear. These symptoms can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months.

In rare cases, the symptoms can last longer than a year. Surprisingly, more than one-third of all pneumonia cases in Arizona come from valley fever.

Common Symptoms

Valley fever often shows up with flu-like symptoms, including:

  • Fatigue
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Headache
  • Night sweats
  • Muscle aches
  • Joint pain
  • Rash on legs or torso

In severe cases, valley fever will spread from the lungs to other organs like the brain, skin, and bones.

Risk Factors and Complications

While valley fever is possible for anyone who breathes in the right dust spore, those with the highest risk are:

  • Anyone more than 60 years old
  • Pregnant women in their third trimester
  • Construction workers
  • Agricultural workers
  • Military members doing fieldwork or training
  • African Americans and Asians
  • People with weakened immune systems

Complications

While many people will recover from valley fever, others will develop more severe conditions. In about 1% of those with valley fever, the infection will spread outside the lungs infecting the:

  • Skin
  • Bones
  • Liver
  • Heart
  • Brain

The most deadly form of valley fever occurs when the infection reaches the brain. When this happens, valley fever becomes a form of meningitis. Those with meningitis from valley fever will need to take antifungal medications like fluconazole for the rest of their life.

Prevention and Treatment

Since valley fever exists anywhere there is dust, complete avoidance is impossible. However, there are ways to lower your overall risk of contracting valley fever. This includes:

  • Staying indoors during a dust storm
  • Staying inside if something is going on that is stirring up the dirt, like landscaping or construction
  • Wearing a face mask—especially in the summer when sudden dust storms are most common

Before receiving treatment for valley fever, you will need a blood test to confirm the presence of the fungus in your body. After being diagnosed, you will likely receive a prescription for an antifungal medication such as fluconazole. Most people will be on an antifungal medication for about three to four months, although others may need medication longer than this.

It’s important for those diagnosed with valley fever to be monitored for at least a year after diagnosis. Follow-up appointments often include lab tests or X-rays.

A Word From Verywell

Valley fever can range from mild to severe. If you think you or your pet may have valley fever and it feels like you’re not getting any better, take time to make an appointment with a healthcare provider.

While some people can get valley fever and never know it, others aren’t so lucky. If after a week you’re not getting better, or if you only seem to be getting worse, it’s time to speak to your healthcare provider.

In this Article

  • Where It Happens
  • Who’s At Risk
  • Complications
  • When to Call the Doctor
  • Diagnosis
  • Treatment
  • Can You Prevent It?
  • Animals Can Get It, Too

Many of us are more familiar with the fever, chills, and other signs of the flu than we’d like to be. If you live in the southwestern United States or certain other areas, there’s a small chance that these symptoms could signal something else: valley fever.

Valley fever isn’t contagious, so you can’t catch it from someone else. Fungus that grows in the ground causes it. When something stirs up the soil, spores from the fungus fly into the air, where people breathe them in.

Most people don’t get sick. And when valley fever symptoms do appear, they usually go away on their own. If not, there are medicines that can typically clear them up. But in rare cases, the fungus spreads to other parts of the body. That’s much more serious, so it’s important to know what’s happening.

Another reason to keep a lookout: Pets can come down with valley fever, too.

You might hear your doctor use the medical name for valley fever: coccidioidomycosis. It is also known as San Joaquin Valley fever or desert rheumatism.

Where It Happens

The types of fungus that cause valley fever thrive in dry, desert soil. When the wind picks up their spores, it can blow them for hundreds of miles. They exist in these areas of the U.S.:

  • Arizona
  • Southwestern New Mexico
  • Areas around El Paso, Texas
  • Central and Southern California, especially the San Joaquin Valley
  • Eastern Washington state

The fungus’ area also reaches down into Mexico. And it has turned up in Central and South American countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Paraguay, and Venezuela.

Who’s At Risk

If you go to the affected regions, you could be exposed. Someone who is age 60 or older is more likely to get it. The risk is also greater for:

  • People with weakened immune systems
  • Pregnant women
  • People with diabetes
  • African-Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and Filipinos, likely due to genetic reasons

Signs of valley fever usually show up 2 to 3 weeks after the fungus gets into your lungs. You might have:

  • Fever
  • Chest pains
  • Cough
  • Chills
  • Night sweats
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Joint aches
  • A red, spotty rash, usually on the lower legs

If symptoms do appear, recovering from them may take months. The time depends on your general health and how many of the fungus spores have gotten into your lungs.

If symptoms don’t improve on their own or you don’t get treatment, valley fever may eventually develop into a long-term type of pneumonia. This mainly happens in people whose immune systems are weak. The symptoms include milk fever, unexplained weight loss, chest pains, and coughing up mucus with blood in it.

Complications

In the most serious cases, the infection moves beyond the lungs into other parts of the body.

The possible effects include skin sores that are worse than the rash mentioned above, painful, swollen joints, and meningitis, which is an infection around the brain and spinal cord.

When to Call the Doctor

Make the call if you have symptoms of valley fever and they last more than a week. Checking with a professional is especially important if you’re in a high-risk group.

Diagnosis

The main test for valley fever is for your doctor to take a sample of your blood. The results should come back in a few days.

You may also be asked to cough up a mucus sample so it can be tested.

Your doctor might take an X-ray.

They might also take a sample of tissue from your body. If the tissue or blood needs to go to a lab for more tests, the results might need a few weeks to get back to your doctor.

Treatment

Valley fever usually doesn’t need medical treatment. For people who are otherwise healthy, bed rest and drinking plenty of fluids are enough. Your doctor will keep a close watch on how you’re doing.

If the symptoms hang on or get worse, your doctor might prescribe a drug that attacks illnesses caused by fungus. There are several options, depending on how severe the symptoms are. In the most extreme cases, such as people who develop meningitis, lifelong medication may be necessary.

One bit of good news: In many cases, people who have valley fever become immune for the rest of their lives.

Since you can’t spread it to other people, you don’t have to stay home for that reason. But it’s important to get as much rest as possible until your symptoms are gone.

Can You Prevent It?

There’s no vaccine. But if you live in or visit a region where valley fever is a possibility, it helps to take common-sense precautions, such as:

  • Avoid dusty areas, such as construction sites
  • Stay indoors during dust storms, and keep the windows shut
  • Avoid activities that put you in contact with dust and soil, such as yard work and gardening
  • Filter the air inside your home

These steps are particularly important for people who are at high risk.

Animals Can Get It, Too

You can’t spread valley fever to, or get it from, your pet. But animals can get it on their own.

Dogs are most vulnerable. Just like with people, many of the animals that inhale the fungus don’t get sick. When they do, they may cough, lack energy, or lose weight. If you think your pet may have valley fever, check with your vet.

Sources

Center for Food Security & Public Health, Iowa State University: “Coccidioidomycosis.”

CDC: “Valley Fever (Coccidioidomycosis).”

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Aug 2, 2021.

  • Overview
  • Aftercare Instructions
  • Ambulatory Care
  • En Español

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

What is valley fever?

Valley fever, or coccidioidomycosis, is an infection caused by a fungus. You can get the infection if you breathe in the fungus germs. The germs are found in soil and dust in parts of the United States, Mexico, Central and South America. In the United States, most cases of valley fever occur in California, Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico.

What are the signs and symptoms of valley fever?

You may develop the following flu-like symptoms 1 to 4 weeks after you breathe in the fungus:

  • Cough or trouble breathing
  • Fever, chills, or night sweats
  • Chest, joint, or muscle pain
  • Tiredness or headache
  • A rash
  • Tender, swollen, red lumps on your legs
  • Loss of appetite or weight loss

How is valley fever diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and examine you. Tell him or her if you have traveled recently or if you work outside. You may need any of the following tests:

  • Blood tests may show the fungus that causes valley fever.
  • A sample from your throat or the inside of your nose may be needed. You may need to cough mucus into a cup. A cotton swab may be used to get a sample from an open rash or wound. These are tested for the fungus that causes valley fever.
  • An x-ray may show signs of infection, such as swelling and fluid around your lungs.
  • A lung biopsy may be done to test for signs of a fungal infection. Lung tissue is removed and sent to a lab for tests.

How is valley fever treated?

Your symptoms usually go away on their own. It may take up to 2 months for your symptoms go away. You may need any of the following:

  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor’s order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Cough medicine may help soothe your throat and decrease your urge to cough.

How can I manage my symptoms?

  • Rest as directed. Slowly start to do more each day.
  • Drink liquids as directed to help prevent dehydration. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.
  • Use a cool mist humidifier to increase air moisture in your home. This may make it easier for you to breathe and help decrease your cough.
  • Record the color and amount of sputum you cough up. Bring this record to your follow-up visits.

How can I prevent valley fever?

  • Cover your nose and mouth. Use masks or cloths to cover your nose and mouth while working in the soil.
  • Wash your hands after you handle plants and soil. Use soap and water every time. Rub your soapy hands together, lacing your fingers. Wash the front and back of your hands, and in between your fingers. Use the fingers of one hand to scrub under the fingernails of the other hand. Wash for at least 20 seconds. Rinse with warm, running water for several seconds. Then dry your hands with a clean towel or paper towel.

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • You have severe chest pain.
  • You have trouble breathing or your breathing seems faster and more shallow than usual.
  • You are confused or sleepy.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your lips or nails turn blue.
  • You cough up blood.
  • You have a headache, a stiff neck, and a fever.

When should I call my doctor?

  • Your symptoms do not improve within 2 months.
  • You have night sweats for longer than 3 weeks.
  • You lose more than 10% of your weight.
  • You cannot work because of your symptoms.
  • Your lymph nodes are swollen.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

Learn more about Valley Fever

Mayo Clinic Reference

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Do you have any suggestions for treating Valley Fever?

How to treat valley fever

Valley Fever is an infection – usually of the lungs – caused by a fungus, Coccidioides immitis, found in the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. It was discovered in the San Joaquin Valley of California and is also sometimes called “San Joaquin Valley fever,” “desert fever,” or “desert rheumatism.”

Valley Fever is very common here in Arizona. We see a lot of infections in June and July and then again in October and November. In California, the “season” for Valley Fever runs from June through November. The fungus lives in the soil, and those most susceptible to infection are farm and construction workers as well as archeologists and others whose jobs involve disturbing the soil and who may inhale the spores.

More than 60 percent of all cases are so mild that those infected never feel sick and never know they have Valley Fever. Those who feel bad enough to go to the doctor usually complain of fatigue, cough, chest pain, fever, rash, headache, and joint aches. Most of the time no specific treatment is needed, just plenty of rest. However, I do suggest eating one or two cloves of raw garlic daily. Garlic has antibiotic and antifungal properties that may make it useful in counteracting fungal infections such as Valley Fever. You can make raw garlic more palatable by chopping it fine and mixing it with food. Or cut a clove into chunks and swallow them whole like pills (remember, a clove is one of the segments of a head or bulb of garlic).

About five percent of cases of Valley Fever lead to pneumonia or other breathing problems that require treatment, typically with Diflucan (fluconazole), a strong prescription antifungal drug. Side effects of this medication can include nausea, vomiting or abdominal pain, diarrhea, headache, or rash. Be sure to tell your physician about any severe or unusual side effects. In rare cases, Diflucan can cause liver damage, and before taking it women should be sure to tell their doctor if they’re pregnant or think they might be. The drug can damage the fetus although potential benefits may warrant use of the drug in pregnant women despite potential risks. In an even smaller percentage of cases of Valley Fever, the infection becomes generalized and potentially life-threatening, requiring more drastic treatment.

The best way to deal with Valley Fever would be a vaccine to prevent it. Researchers at the Valley Fever Center for Excellence here in Tucson (one of several such centers in the southwest and California) are working on a vaccine. Let’s hope they find one soon.