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Tick-tac-NO: Tips to prevent tick encounters this spring

SAN JUAN COUNTY, WA. April 29, 2024 (en español) – Ticks are small blood-feeding parasites, and some species can transmit diseases to people. Tick exposure can happen any time of year, but ticks are most active during the warmer months (April through September).

The best way to protect yourself and others against tick-borne disease is by reducing your exposure to ticks and preventing ticks from biting. San Juan County Health & Community Services is sharing a few tips to make spring as enjoyable and healthy as possible. 

Here are some ways to reduce your expose to ticks:

  • Know where to expect ticks. Many ticks live in grassy, brushy, or wooded areas. When possible, avoid wooded and brushy areas with tall grass and leaf litter. Walk in the center of trails, particularly in spring and summer when ticks feed.
  • Wear appropriate clothing. When in tick habitats, wear light-colored, tightly woven long pants and long-sleeve shirts. Tuck your pant legs into socks or boots, and your shirt into your pants. This helps keep ticks on the outside of your clothing where you can spot them more easily.
  • Use tick repellent when necessary, and carefully follow instructions on the label.
  • Check clothing, gear, and petsTicks can hitch a ride into your home on clothing and pets, then attach to you or a family member later.
  • Shower soon after being outdoors. Showering within two hours of being in tick habitat can reduce your risk of getting Lyme disease and may be effective in reducing the risk of other tick-borne diseases. Showering can wash off unattached ticks and it is a good opportunity to do a tick check.
  • Check your body and your child’s thoroughly for ticks. Carefully inspect areas in and around the hair, head, neck, ears, under arms, inside the belly button, around the waist, between the legs, and behind the knees. Ticks can be very small before they feed—look for what may appear like a new freckle or speck of dirt. Continue checking for two to three days after returning from areas with ticks.

If you do find a tick attached to you, remove the tick as quickly as possible. Do not wait for it to detach.

  • Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin surface as possible.
  • Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Avoid removing the tick with bare hands. Don't twist or jerk the tick; this may cause the mouthparts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouthparts with clean tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
  • After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
  • Never crush a tick with your fingers. Dispose of a live tick by:
    1. Putting it in alcohol,
    2. Placing it in a sealed bag/container,
    3. Wrapping it tightly in tape, or
    4. Flushing it down the toilet.

If you develop a rash, fever, or flu-like illness within several weeks of removing the tick, see your healthcare provider. Tell the healthcare provider about your recent tick bite, when the bite occurred, and where you most likely acquired the tick. If possible, save the tick for identification.

Neither the Washington State Public Health Laboratories nor CDC routinely tests ticks for disease. However, there are options for identifying species of ticks. TickSpotters, through the University of Rhone Island, allows you to send a photo to tick experts to give you accurate, timely identification information. Because different tick species transmit different diseases, knowing the tick species may help a health care provider diagnose an illness that could be associated with a tick bite. You can also send a tick specimen to the Department of Health by mail for identification.

You can make your yard less attractive to ticks. Focus your management of tick habitat to areas frequently used by your family, not necessarily your entire property.

  • 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 rodents).
  • 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 by constructing fences.
  • Remove old furniture, mattresses, or trash from the yard that may give ticks a place to hide.

In the following weeks, we will have other safety articles to help keep you safe this spring, so stay tuned!

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