This year is turning into a “very busy” season for ticks, according to the Washington State Department of Health (DOH).
Ticks, which are blood-feeding parasites that can transmit diseases, seem to be more prevalent this year so far, according to Dr. Elizabeth Dykstra, a DOH public health epidemiologist.
The Western black-legged tick is most common in Western Washington and live in forested or brushy areas. If you’re headed to the eastern side of the mountains, watch out for the American dog tick and the Rocky Mountain wood tick.
The Western black-legged tick can transmit Lyme disease and anaplasmosis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, DOH says Lyme disease is rare in Washington state, and there haven’t been any human cases of anaplasmosis reported.
Avoid ticks by using insect repellant with DEET and wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants while outside. You can reduce the risk of ticks in your yard by clearing tall grasses and putting a three-foot wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas, according to the CDC.
When you get home from spending time outside, check yourself, children, and pets for ticks. The parasites latch onto skin and like to burrow in warm areas, such as the head, neck, ears, under arms, between legs, and back of knees. On pets, they like to latch around the eyelids, ears, and tail, under the collar and front legs, and between the back legs and toes, according to the CDC.
Showering or bathing two hours after being outdoors can also help wash off ticks.
If you find a tick, remove it with tweezers. Pull upward with steady pressure to avoid parts of the tick breaking off and remaining in the skin.
Once it’s removed, you can send the tick to DOH’s tick surveillance team to help research teams understand where ticks are most commonly encountered and which parasite have disease-causing pathogens.