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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.
Young 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:
- 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.
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
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
- 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
For more information, see the Minnesota Department of Health
- 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
Centers for Disease Control
Minnesota Department of Health
Minnesota Lyme Association
- 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
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
- 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
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
For information on dogs, go to PetMD.