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How to Avoid Ticks – and Treat Bites

Published on May 12, 2023

Beware of ticks sign in woods

Tick-tock. With the warmer months come the crawling critters who might bite, sting, or even stay a while.

Like many parasites, ticks latch onto the skin to feed on blood. While all parasitic insects carry and spread diseases, even the very thought of ticks can cause distress due to their more visible size and tendency to linger. Learn how to spot, avoid, and remove these pesky parasites – and what to do if you or a loved one (including the family pet) gets bit.

In This Blog

Common Michigan Ticks and Diseases They Spread

Tick bites themselves aren't usually cause for concern. It’s the microbes in their saliva that travel into the bloodstream and carry illnesses such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

While hard ticks will attach and feed for several hours or even days, soft ticks often feed for less than one hour, transmitting diseases more quickly. Of the 800 species of ticks, only a small fraction is known to transmit diseases to humans. Michigan’s five most common ticks include:

American dog tickAmerican dog tick. Despite its name, this tick will bite both pets and humans. Though rare, the American dog tick can spread diseases like Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Blacklegged tickBlacklegged tick. Especially prevalent along the West Coast of Michigan, including many Northern Michigan counties, the blacklegged tick can transmit Lyme disease as well as other notable infections such as Anaplasmosis and Babesiosis.

Lone Star tickLone star tick. Known as an aggressive biter, this breed has recently become more prevalent in Michigan, feasting on both animals and humans. Its painless, often unnoticed bite rarely leaves a mark – but it can cause a temporary red meat allergy.    

Woodchuck tickWoodchuck tick. The woodchuck (or groundhog) tick rarely bites humans but is typically found on pets throughout Michigan and transmits Powassan virus disease.

Brown dog tickBrown dog tick. Though not as common as other Michigan ticks, this tick can survive indoors and carry Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Lyme Disease: Should You Be Concerned?

Lyme disease is a tick-borne bacterial infection. While it cannot be passed from person to person, it does lead to serious health problems such as joint pain and flu-like symptoms if it goes untreated (typically with antibiotics).

Lyme disease is a year-round problem in many parts of the U.S., including certain areas in Northern Michigan. April through October is generally the most active tick season. Factors that can increase your risk for getting Lyme disease include:

  • Working or spending time outdoors in grassy areas where the blacklegged deer tick or Western blacklegged deer tick is found
  • Having pets that can bring the ticks into your home

Avoiding Ticks 101

The warmer months when we typically spend more time outdoors are when ticks are most active in our region. The good news is that ticks are largely avoidable with the right precautions.

Illustration of grass covered by universal "no" symbolOutdoor care. Keep your grass routinely mowed and free of leaf debris. Stack wood tightly and in dry areas to discourage rodents (and therefore ticks). If your home borders the woods, keep recreational areas as far from the trees as possible, and consider a 3-ft barrier of wood chips or gravel to prevent ticks from making their way to your lawn. Finally, deter stray and wild animals with fences or makeshift barriers.

Illustration of long-sleeved white shirtClothing Counts. Dress appropriately to prevent and identify ticks by wearing light-colored fabrics; hats or head scarves; long sleeves; pants with the legs tucked in your socks; closed-toe shoes.

Illustration of can of insect repellentUse Insect repellents. Particularly those containing DEET. Please note that products containing permethrin can be sprayed only on clothing, not on your skin.

Illustration of shower head and falling waterShower after all outdoor activities. This can wash away ticks before they become fully attached to your skin.

Illustration of magnifying glassDo a skin check. Look for ticks often on your joints and in crevices like your underarms, backs of the knees, and in-between fingers and toes. Ticks also tend toward belly buttons, the neck, hairline, top of the head, and behind your ears.

Illustration of washing machineWash clothing after outdoor use. Be sure to use hot water and high heat to kill any lingering ticks.

Illustration of dogConsider tick prevention for pets. Ask your veterinarian about the best tick-prevention products for your four-legged friends.

If You Find a Tick

Illustration of tick on skin, being removed by tweezersA tick that attaches to you may infect you, depending on the type of tick and the germs it carries. But not all ticks carry disease. If you find a tick, don't panic.

  • Try to carefully remove the tick with tweezers
  • Grasp the tick near its head as close to the skin’s surface as possible
  • Pull without twisting and don't crush the body
  • After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water
  • Put a live tick in alcohol, a sealed bag or container, or down the toilet.

Tick Bites: Common Symptoms

Illustration of woman with hand on forehead, using oral thermometerSymptoms of tick-related diseases vary depending on the disease. The most common symptoms are:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Aches and pains such as headache, extreme tiredness (fatigue), and muscle aches
  • Joint pain (with Lyme disease)
  • Rash

When to Seek Medical Care

Illustration of woman with hands on head, red lines indicating headacheIf you remove a tick yourself, watch for signs of a tick-borne illness. Symptoms may show up in a few days or weeks after a bite. Call your healthcare provider if you notice any of the following:

  • Rash (This may spread outward in a ring from a hard, white lump. Or it may move up your arms and legs to your chest)
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Body aches, joint swelling, and pain
  • Severe headache
Bull's eye rash on leg
A "bull's eye" rash is a common symptom of Lyme disease.

Be sure to tell your provider about your recent tick bite, when the bite occurred, and where you most likely acquired the tick.

  • You may be asked to see your healthcare provider for a blood test to check for Lyme or another tick-related disease. Your physician won’t typically order this test right away, since Lyme disease can take weeks to develop.
  • To prevent disease, you may be prescribed antibiotics, depending on the type of bite and the length of time the tick attached itself.


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