Tick Prevention & Resources
What are Ticks?
Ticks are small parasitic arachnids that feed on blood. A tick feeds by cutting through the skin and inserting their mouth parts to place a feeding tube. Some species of ticks have barbs on their feeding tube which help keep the tick attached, while some species have a cement like secretion for the same purpose. Many ticks are found in low laying brush where they wait for a host to feed on. They detect a host by their breath and body odor, body heat, moisture and even vibrations. Some ticks are associated with rodents and come out at night to find a meal, but ticks can be active at any time of day.
Why be aware?
Ticks can carry disease causing pathogens. According to WA DOH, the most common tick-borne diseases located in the Pacific Northwest include babesiosis, Lyme disease, rocky mountain spotted fever, tick-borne relapsing fever, tick paralysis, and tularemia. There are many other tick-borne diseases that are higher risk of infection through travel out of the state or country.
How to Prevent Tick Bites
Ticks are present year-round but most active in the warmer months of spring and summer. They live in grassy, bushy, or wooded areas. Spending time outside in these environments can put you at risk for tick bites. Activities such as hunting, walking your dog, gardening or even just being in your back yard can expose you to ticks. To prevent bites, it is recommended to avoid tick habitat when possible. For example, if you are hiking walk in the center of the trail to avoid brush.
Light colored clothes can help protect you by making a tick easier to spot. To deter ticks, make sure clothing fabric is tightly woven, wear long pants, and long shirt sleeves to reduce the skin available for a tick to bite. Tucking your pant legs into your socks and/or boots and tucking in your shirt into your pants can help prevent ticks from biting you by making it more difficult for the tick to reach your skin.
Check yourself, your gear, and pets for ticks. Put your clothes in the dryer and tumble dry on high for at least 10 min; if your clothes are wet, they may need longer. This will kill any ticks on your clothes. If you are washing your clothes first do so in hot water as cold or cool water will not kill ticks. Take a shower within two hours of getting back. This will rinse off any ticks, reduce the risk of Lyme disease (possibly other tick -borne diseases as well), and is a great time to go a body check for ticks. When doing a body check for yourself be sure to check:
- In and around hair
- Under arms
- Belly button
- Between legs
- Behind knees
When checking pets be sure to check:
- In and around the ears
- Around the eyes
- Under the collar
- Under front legs
- Between back legs
- Between toes
- Around round the tail
Ticks may be small and look like a speck of dirt. Continue to check over the next few days.
To reduce tick habitat around your home remove leaf litter, brush, and trash in your yard. Keep wood neatly stacked in a dry area. Clear tall grass and brush from around your home. Keep your lawn mowed and shrubs trimmed. Move swing sets, sandboxes, or yard furniture away from the edge of wooded areas. A 3 ft wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between wooded areas and patios or play equipment can reduce tick migration to these areas. You can also reduce animals associated with ticks, for example plant deer repelling plants or keep deer out with a fence. You can also reduce rodents in or around your home but following the WA DOH rodent control guidelines.
What to do if you get a tick bite
If you find a tick attached to you remove it as soon as possible. Do not wait for the tick to detach itself. Do not follow old wives' tale, they can irritate the tick and increase your risk of tick-borne diseases.
How to remove
- Use fine tipped tweezers.
- Grasp tick as close to skin as possible.
- Using steady, even pressure pull upward.
- AVOID using bear hands.
- DO NOT twist or jerk. This can cause the mouth parts to break off.
- If the mouth parts break off use tweezers to gently remove it, if it will not come out leave to let skin heal.
- Clean Bite thoroughly.
- Use rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
Dispose of tick by:
- Putting in alcohol
- Placing in a sealed bag/container
- Wrapping tightly in tape
- Flushing down the toilet
- DO NOT crush with fingers
Seek medical care if a rash, fever, or flu like illness develop with in several weeks of removing a tick. Be sure to give your doctor as much information about the tick bite as possible. Useful information included when it happened and where you were when you got bit.
If possible, save the tick for identification. While the WA DOH and the CDC do not recommend testing the tick for infections, they do recommend identifying the tick species to help know what illnesses you may have been exposed to. After safely removing the tick, you can submit it for identification by putting it in a crush proof container and sending it in with this completed form: Tick Identification Submission Form (WA DOH).
For more information and guidance on tick removal and when to see a medical attention check out the CDC tick removal bot.