Watch for ticks when you go outside this spring

Know how to avoid them, and help us report where they are

picture of tick
Photo credit: James Gathany, CDC. The western blacklegged tick is one of several species found in Washington that can spread dangerous diseases.

Are you getting out and enjoying the warmer weather? So are ticks.

As people start adventuring outside, we are sharing these tips on how to help protect yourself, your family, and your pets. Watch out for these tiny parasites — and you can help us track them.

Send Us Your Ticks!

If you encounter a tick during your adventures, safely remove the tick and place it in a crush-proof container. After you’ve removed the tick, you can be a citizen scientist by sending your tick to the Department of Health! We will identify the tick species and tell you what kind it is. Most importantly, knowing what species a tick is could help your health care provider should you become sick.

Fill out our Tick Identification Submission Form (PDF form) and follow instructions on the form for how to safely remove, handle, and ship the tick.

Learn more about the four tick species commonly found in Washington known to bite and transmit diseases to people. Also, be on the lookout later this spring for our interactive map, thanks to Washington Tracking Network, to see where people have found ticks in Washington state.

You Can Prevent Tick Bites

Did you know that May is Lyme Disease Awareness month? No matter what species of tick you encounter, these tiny parasites can pass on dangerous diseases to people. Use these tips to stay safe in tick habitats!

  • Know where to expect ticks. When possible avoid wooded areas as well as bushes, tall grass, and dead leaves. Walk in the center of trails, especially in the spring and summer when ticks are most active.
  • Wear appropriate clothing. When you are in tick habitats wear light-colored, tightly woven long pants and a long-sleeve shirt. 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, and carefully follow instructions on the label. Apply an EPA-approved repellent that is effective against ticks. EPA’s search tool can help you find the right repellent. Help children apply and avoid applying to hands of infants and young toddlers since they often put their hands in their mouths.
  • Check clothing and gear after being in areas with ticks. Anything could carry ticks into your home where ticks can bite even after your adventure is done. Carefully examine coats, camping gear, and daypacks.
  • Shower soon after being outdoors. Showering within two hours of coming home can reduce your risk of getting Lyme disease and may help reduce 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 body thoroughly for ticks. Carefully inspect 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 as a new freckle or speck of dirt. Continue checking for two to three days after returning from areas with ticks.
  • Don’t forget to check your pets! The western blacklegged tick and western dog tick have a particular taste for dogs and are carriers of Lyme Disease. Be sure to double-check yourself, your family, and your furry friend after every outing into tick territory. Visit CDC’s tips on where to check your pet for ticks for more information.

Another disease spread by ticks, alpha-gal syndrome (or red meat allergy), is in the news lately. The tick commonly associated with alpha-gal is not native to Washington. But if you travel to eastern or southeastern U.S., you may be at risk of exposure.

Find more tips and tricks for preventing tick bites at CDC Avoiding Ticks.

More Information

Information in this blog changes rapidly. Sign up to be notified whenever we post new articles. For more information from the Washington State Department of Health, visit doh.wa.gov.

Questions about COVID-19? Visit our COVID-19 website to learn more about vaccines and booster doses, testing, WA Notify, and more. You can also contact the Department of Health call center at 1–800–525–0127 and press # from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday, and 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday — Sunday and observed state holidays. Language assistance is available.

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