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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:

Black-legged tick

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 most likely to happen in the spring, summer, and fall in the Northeast, Upper Midwest, and mid-Atlantic areas.

A bite from a black-legged tick can cause:

Lone star tick

The lone star tick is an aggressive tick that lives across the U.S., though it is more common in the south. People are more at risk of a lone star tick bite from early spring to late fall.

A bite from a lone star tick can cause:

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), a lone star tick bite can sometimes lead to an allergy to red meat.

American dog tick

American dog ticks live east of the Rocky Mountains and in some areas of the Pacific Coast. They are more likely to bite people during the spring and summer.

The bites can cause tularemia and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Brown dog tick

Brown dog ticks are more likely to affect dogs, but they also bite humans and other mammals. Experts have found them all over the world.

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.

Groundhog tick

Groundhog ticks only occasionally bite humans. Usually, they feed on groundhogs, skunks, squirrels, raccoons, foxes, or weasels.

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 wood tick bites can cause:

Soft tick

The western half of the U.S., including Texas, is home to the soft tick. People tend to encounter these ticks when staying in rustic cabins. The ticks often come out to feed at night, and people do not usually notice that they have sustained a bite.

Bites from soft ticks can lead to tickborne relapsing fever.

Western black-legged tick

Western black-legged ticks are found in the Pacific Coast states and can cause Lyme disease and Borrelia miyamotoi disease.

The CDC offer the following advice on avoiding tick bites:

  • 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
  • shower
  • 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.