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 is interested in being added to our annual distribution list, contact the department at 651-430-6655 or PHE@co.washington.mn.us.

Click Here to order materials listed below:

Trail Sign
General Tick Information Poster
Tick ID Card
Tick Information Rack Card
Body Check and Tick Removal Poster

See sections below to jump to the specific topic:
What are Ticks?
Tickborne Disease Overview
Tick Bite Prevention
Tick Checks and Removal
Creating a Tick-Safe Yard
Protect Your Pets

Tick.jpgWhat are Ticks?

Ticks are tiny crawling bugs in the spider family that feed by sucking blood from animals. They live in wooded, brushy areas that provide food and cover for their hosts, which include deer and small mammals. Ticks do not jump or fly; instead, they crawl and grab onto people or animals that brush against vegetation. Ticks can be found year round, but are most active from March to October.

The most common ticks found in Minnesota include the Blacklegged (deer) tick and the American dog (wood) tick. However, many tick species are expanding their ranges and moving into areas where they have not been found historically. In Minnesota, we have seen increasing populations of the Lone Star tick, which is normally found throughout the southwest region of the United States.

Tick Size.jpgYoung ticks, called nymphs, are the size of a poppy seed. Adult deer ticks are the size of a sesame seed. Most ticks follow the same life cycle and feeding pattern:

  1. Larvae: A deer tick starts as a 6-legged larva, which does not transmit disease.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Tick Life Cycle.jpg
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.

For more information:
Centers for Disease Control
Tick Encounter

Tickborne Disease Overview

Minnesota is home to several varieties of ticks, including the blacklegged (deer) tick, American dog (wood) tick and the Lone Star tick. Each type of tick is capable of carrying one or more infectious diseases. The most common tickborne diseases are carried by the blacklegged tick:

Blacklegged tick/deer tick diseases and symptoms:
Lyme Disease Rash 2.jpg
  • 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
  • Tuaremia: fever, chills, and swollen lymph notes. Symptoms may also include skin or mouth ulcers, diarrhea, muscle ahces, 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.

For more information, see the Minnesota Department of Health

Tick Bite Prevention

Ticks cling to plants and grasses in warm, humid environments in wooded or grassy areas, and can be picked up in passing by clothing or skin. When hiking, camping or enjoying other outdoor activities in these areas, it is important to take precautions and minimize the risk:

  • 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
For more information:
Centers for Disease Control
Minnesota Department of Health
Minnesota Lyme Association

Tick Checks and Removal

Check yourself for ticks immediately after outdoor activities, and remove any crawling or attached ticks promptly. When doing a tick check, remember that ticks like places that are warm and moist. Don’t forget hidden areas, such as the back of the knees, armpits, groin, scalp, back of the neck, and behind the ears. Make sure to check children and pets carefully.

If you find a tick attached to your body, remove it as soon as possible: Tick Removal.jpg
  • 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
You can also use one of several commercially available tick removal devices, but make sure to follow the instructions provided with the device. Washington County doesn't endorse any specific tick-removal products.

 Tick Removal

Ticks can be very small and sometimes go unnoticed. Taking 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 the host 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.

For more information, see the Centers for Disease Control

Creating a Tick Safe Yard

Tick Safe Yard.jpgTicks and their hosts (including mice, chipmunks, and other small mammals) can be found in grassy, bushy areas around the outside of a home. These areas provide shelter from the sun, moisture, easy access to small mammals, and a place to hide – all important elements in promoting the tick life cycle. Fortunately, some easy clean up can greatly reduce the risk of encountering ticks while enjoying the outdoor space. Here are some tips for creating a tick-safe zone around the home:

  • Remove leaf litter
  • Clear tall grasses and brush around homes and at the edge of lawns
  • Place a 3-ft wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas to restrict tick migration into recreational areas
  • Mow the lawn frequently
  • Stack wood neatly and in a dry area (discourages small mammal nesting)
  • Keep playground equipment, decks, and patios away from yard edges and trees
  • Discourage unwelcome animals (such as deer, raccoons, and stray dogs) from entering your yard
  • Consider applying an approved pesticide - always follow the label instructions
For more information see the Centers for Disease Control  or a tick handbook.

Protect Your Pets

Some pets can catch the same tick-borne diseases as humans. Dogs are especially at risk. Ticks can attach anywhere on an animal, but are most commonly found on their ear, shoulder, and upper leg areas.

Following these guidelines can help protect your pets:

  • Check daily for ticks, especially after time outdoors
  • If found on your pet, remove the tick right away
  • Talk to your veterinarian about tick control products
  • If you own a dog, ask your veterinarian about the Lyme disease vaccine
  • Have a veterinarian conduct a tick check at each exam
  • Talk to your veterinarian about tick-borne diseases in your area
  • Reduce tick habitat in your yard
Other domesticated animals might also be at risk for catching a tickborne disease, including cats and horses. Talk to your vet about specific products and tick control strategies that would be appropriate for your animal(s).

For information on dogs, go to PetMD.