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Ticks are small bugs that survive by sucking the blood of humans and other animals. They are parasites that can transmit disease between the animals and people on whom they feed.
In this article, we look at the types of ticks that live in the United States and which diseases they carry. We also offer general advice on avoiding tick bites, removing ticks, and seeing a doctor.
Globally, there are hundreds of different types of ticks. All carry different types of bacteria and viruses.
When a tick attaches itself to someone’s skin, it can transmit those bacteria and viruses to the “host,” leading to an infection.
Several different types of ticks live in the U.S. Some are more likely than others to bite humans. The most common types include:
The black-legged tick lives all over the U.S. While these ticks might bite people at any time when the temperatures are above freezing, this is
A bite from a black-legged tick can cause:
- Lyme disease
- a type of recurring fever that doctors call
Powassan virus disease
Lone star tick
The lone star tick is an aggressive tick that lives across the U.S., though it is
A bite from a lone star tick can cause:
- human ehrlichiosis
tularemia Heartland virus disease Bourbon virus disease Southern tick-associated rash illness
According to the
American dog tick
The bites can cause tularemia and
Brown dog tick
They can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever. This is more likely to happen in the southwestern U.S. and along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Found throughout the eastern half of the U.S., they can transmit Powassan virus disease.
Rocky Mountain wood tick
As their name suggests, these ticks live in the Rocky Mountain states. The adults feed on large mammals, including humans.
- Rocky Mountain spotted fever
Colorado tick fever
The western half of the U.S., including Texas, is home to the
Bites from soft ticks can lead to
Western black-legged tick
The CDC offer the
- know which ticks are most common in the local area
- where possible, avoid areas that are the ticks’ natural habitat, such as grassy, brushy, or wooded areas
- when ticks are unavoidable, use repellent — people can treat boots, clothing, and camping gear with products that contain 0.5% permethrin
When people get home after being outside in a potentially tick-infested area, they can:
- check their clothing for ticks — tumble drying clothes on high heat will kill any ticks on them
- check pets and gear, such as coats, backpacks, and tents, for ticks
- check their whole body for signs of ticks, taking care to check:
- under the arms
- in and around the ears
- the bellybutton
- the backs of the knees
- the hair and the hairline
- around the waist
- the groin
People can use a pair of fine-tipped tweezers to remove a tick from their body. They should use these to grab the tick as close to the surface of the skin as possible. Then, using steady, even pressure, they can pull the tweezers upward. Any jerking or twisting could break the tick’s body off and leave the head in the skin
Once the person has removed the tick, they should wash the skin with rubbing alcohol or soap and water, then flush the tick down the toilet.
Anyone who develops a rash or a fever after a tick bite — even if the bite was several weeks ago — should speak to a doctor.
Ticks are tiny parasites that attach themselves to the skin of humans and other animals so that they can feed on their blood.
As they feed, the ticks can transfer the bacteria and viruses that they carry to the host. In this way, they can lead to infections, such as Lyme disease, tularemia, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
The best way to prevent tickborne diseases is to avoid getting bitten. That means staying away from places where ticks live or using tick repellent products.
Anyone who develops a rash or fever within several weeks of receiving a tick bite should speak to a doctor.
Many different tick repellants and related products are available for purchase online.