Ticks are waiting with the nice weather | King County Department of Health

Warmer sunny days beckon us to enjoy the great outdoors. So, what’s bugging you? Ticks and other small biting creatures could be, so it’s important to protect yourself, your family, and pets.

“Washington is home to ticks that can carry a variety of diseases,” said Liz Dykstra, Ph.D., public health entomologist with the Zoonotic Disease Program. “We’re asking people who have been bitten by a tick to send it to us for identification, so we can track where different types of ticks are most commonly found.”

If you get bitten, send ticks to our Zoonotic Disease Program for identification. Information on how to submit ticks is on our website.

Although tick-borne illnesses are rare in Washington, there are cases of tick-borne relapsing fever and Lyme disease here every year. Rocky Mountain spotted fever and babesiosis are even rarer in Washington, but there are occasional cases. These illnesses often result from tick bites in states where ticks are more common, but some illnesses (including Lyme disease) are acquired in our state.

“There are some simple precautions people can take,” said Dykstra. The best protection against these diseases is avoiding tick bites. Before heading outdoors:

  • Wear insect repellent that contains DEET or permethrin. Both are effective if used properly. DEET is applied to skin, and permethrin is applied to clothing. Carefully follow product directions.
  • Wear light-colored clothing. It’s easier to spot dark-colored insects.
  • Tuck your pants into your socks and your shirt into your pants.
  • Protect pets: Use an approved tick preventative on your pets. Ask your veterinarian which product or method is best for your pet.

People should protect themselves in Washington and while traveling elsewhere. Tick-borne diseases range from mild illnesses to serious infections that require hospitalization. Symptoms may include fever, headache, fatigue, muscle aches, or rash. Several tick-borne diseases can also infect dogs. More information is available online (

Ticks live in wooded, brushy, or grassy places. They feed on rodents, raccoons, deer, and other warm-blooded animals, including dogs and people. After being outdoors, check yourself, your family members, and your pets carefully for ticks. Ask someone to check your back, too. Many of us enjoy staying at cabins in the woods, which is where relapsing fever ticks can be found.

If you find a tick on yourself, carefully remove it right away. Grasp the tick with tweezers as close to the skin as possible and pull upward with a steady even pressure. Avoid crushing the tick’s body. Make sure the mouthparts are removed and then thoroughly clean the bite site using soap and water, rubbing alcohol, or iodine solution.

Write down the date you found the attached tick. If you develop a fever or rash within the next several weeks, seek medical care, and tell your healthcare provider about your recent tick bite. This information, along with the species of the tick, may help your provider with your diagnosis.

A helpful poster on avoiding tick bites is also available for downloading and printing (

The Department of Health website ( is your source for a healthy dose of information. Also, find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

“Just a little bit.” Those are four words every mother wants to hear from her teenage daughters on a beautiful spring day in answer to the question “Do you have homework?” Those were the words I heard this bright and beautiful Sunday morning, which meant they had time to do something else today. My garden was calling to me and because of some current health issues, I needed some able bodies out there to do what I couldn’t.

Last summer I dug a small trench under and outside of my front garden’s fence, lined it with plastic and laid concrete pavers to create a mowing barrier. The grass had invaded my garden and I decided the best defense was an offense; thus the mowing strip. After that labor intensive project, I set out to eradicate several large clumps of sedge (ornamental grass) I’ve had in my garden for several years. It can be invasive over a period of time and I was tired of trying to manage it.

Thinking it would be easy, I tackled the first plant shortly after I put in the mowing strip; probably late spring, early summer. Not only was the sedge one of the most difficult plants I’ve ever tried to remove, each clump took several days to completely pull out. I got sick of the process, but with each consecutive plant, my rage grew. I became obsessed over it and was determined to be the victor. Even the bees living in one of the plants did not detract from my mission.

At the end of summer I had successfully removed all the clumps of sedge. But I realized I had spent the whole summer getting rid of these plants and accomplished nothing else; I hadn’t done any normal garden maintenance.

So as this spring has been too slow in coming and the rains have been excessively heavy, I’ve been watching the grass that invaded my garden last year get worse and the undisturbed weeds take hold with a vengeance. I started to despair that I would never get control of the garden again and felt derailed and helpless when my health issue reared its ugly head.

But sometimes when one has a weighty issue to resolve, one often needs to look outside themselves for the solution. Seventeen years ago, I birthed my first solution. Two and a half years after, the second part of my solution made her appearance. So when they told me, all these years later, they only had a little bit of homework, I rejoiced.

I got them out of bed, told them to eat and report to me in the garden. I figured getting them out there before the heat of the day was smart; there would be no excuses of it being too hot. Also, since they only had a “little bit” of homework, working in the garden first kept them from “suddenly” having more homework than they thought.

As I was unable to do the digging, I introduced them to two of my best friends: the shovel and the pitchfork and pointed my daughters to the grass that was inching its way through the front part of my garden.

In the past I’ve had mixed results from having my daughters help me in the garden. It has always been my domain as it’s my hobby, so I’ve never made them help me with it on a regular basis. When I have gotten my daughters outside, it is usually under duress. Once they were in trouble and I made them dig a new section for me as their punishment, once I was trying to finish a big project before the rain hit and the few times I’ve offered to pay them for helping in the garden, they’ve opted out.

Today they grabbed their shovels and got to work without complaint. I don’t know if it’s because they are showing compassion towards me because of my health or if it’s because spring has sprung and they are crawling out of their caves. Whatever the reason, you won’t hear me complaining; a little bit of homework goes a long way in the garden.

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