Washington County Public Health and Environment staff is available to assist with questions regarding tick safety and the prevention of tickborne disease.
If your organization has questions or is interested in being added to our annual distribution list, contact us at 651-430-6655 or PHE@co.washington.mn.us.
- Trail Sign
- General Tick Information Poster
- Tick ID Card
- Tick Information Rack Card
- Body Check and Tick Removal Poster
Ticks are small bugs that belong to the spider family. They crawl on the ground and feed on the blood of animals. They usually live in places with trees and bushes, which provide food and shelter for the animals they feed on, such as deer and small mammals. Unlike some insects, ticks don't jump or fly. Instead, they crawl on surfaces and attach themselves to people or animals that come into contact with vegetation. Ticks can be found at any time of the year, but they are most active between March and October.
In Minnesota, the two most common types of ticks are the Blacklegged tick (also known as the deer tick) and the American dog tick (also known as the wood tick). However, other tick species are starting to move into areas where they were not typically found before. One example is the Lone Star tick, which is usually found in the southwest part of the United States. Recently, the Lone Star tick population is increasing in Minnesota as well.
Young ticks, called nymphs, are the size of a freckle or speck of dirt. Adult deer ticks are the size of a sesame seed. Most ticks follow the same life cycle and feeding pattern:
- Larvae: A deer tick starts as a 6-legged larva, which does not transmit disease.
- Nymph: Most cases of tick-borne disease are caused by the nymph, which looks like a freckle or speck of dirt. The nymph feeds from May through July.
- Adult: The larger adult ticks feed in fall and early spring, and are easier to see and remove. After feeding on deer, the female lays her eggs, which hatch into larvae in May and June.
Ticks can carry and transmit diseases that can be dangerous to humans and animals. Any species of tick can potentially transmit disease; therefore it is important to remove a tick as soon as possible so it doesn’t cause infection.
Each type of tick carry one or more infectious disease. The most common tickborne diseases are carried by the Blacklegged (deer) tick.
Blacklegged tick/deer tick diseases and symptoms:
- Lyme disease: fever, chills, stiff neck, tiredness, headache, muscle and joint pain, rash (often with bulls eye appearance).
- Anaplasmosis: fever, headache, muscle pain, a feeling of general discomfort, chills, nausea, cough, confusion.
- Babesiosis: fever, chills, sweats, headache, body aches, nausea, tiredness.
- Powassan disease: fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, loss of coordination, speech difficulties, seizures.
A few other tickborne diseases are less common in Minnesota, but still occur occasionally. These diseases are transmitted by the American dog (wood) tick and the Lone Star tick:
American dog tick/wood tick diseases and symptoms:
- Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever: sudden onset of fever, general discomfort, headache, muscle pain, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, rash.
- Tularemia: fever, chills, and swollen lymph nodes. Symptoms may also include skin or mouth ulcers, diarrhea, muscle aches, joint pain, cough, and weakness.
Lone Star tick diseases and symptoms:
- Ehrlichiosis: fever, headache, chills, muscle pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, confusion, eye redness and irritation, rash.
- STARI (Southern tick-associated rash illness): Rash, tiredness, fever, headache, muscle pain.
Some tickborne diseases can lead to serious complications, even in previously health people. If a rash or any of the above symptoms develop after a tick bite, or even after outdoor activities, it is important to see a doctor right away. Symptoms can appear a few days after a bite, or up to a month later.
Ticks cling to plants and grass in warm and humid areas like forests or grassy fields. They can easily attach themselves to clothing or skin when you pass by. To stay safe when hiking, camping, or spending time outdoors in these areas, it's crucial to take precautions and minimize the risk of tick bites.
- Stay on well-cleared trails and avoid tall vegetation.
- Use a repellant with, at least 20% DEET, for use on skin (follow label instructions).
- Wear permethrin treated clothing and gear.
- Never apply directly on the skin.
- Follow label instructions
- Wear long sleeves, pants and light colored clothing to more easily spot ticks.
- Wear closed-toe shoes and tuck your pants into your socks, or wear gaiters.
- Scan clothes and exposed skin frequently for ticks.
- Take a shower within 2 hours of returning indoors.
After outdoor activities, make sure to check yourself immediately for ticks and promptly remove any crawling or attached ticks. When conducting a tick check, keep in mind that ticks prefer warm and moist areas. Don't overlook hidden spots like the back of the knees, armpits, groin, scalp, back of the neck, and behind the ears. Make sure to check children and pets carefully.
- Use a fine-point tweezers.
- Do not squeeze or twist the tick’s body.
- Grasp the tick close to your skin and pull straight out with steady pressure.
- Thoroughly wash the area and apply antiseptic.
Take a shower or bath, and drying your clothes in a hot dryer for 20-30 minutes can remove or kill any ticks you failed to notice.
Most people bitten by a tick will not get a disease, because not all ticks are infected with diseases. In most cases, ticks that are infected usually have to be attached to a person for several hours to several days to transmit disease. Prompt removal of an attached tick will significantly reduce the risk of infection.
If possible, save the removed tick on a piece of scotch tape and record tick removal date on tape. If you later develop symptoms, this action could help facilitate a diagnosis and treatment plan. See your physician if you develop symptoms of tickborne disease , including fever, flu like illness or a rash within a few weeks of a tick bite. At the visit, be sure to tell your doctor about your tick exposure.