What you need to do to protect yourself from tick bites and diseases

Experts say Michigan is experiencing ‘tick explosion’

Adult blacklegged ticks

Reports of tick-borne diseases, such as Lyme disease and anaplasmosis, are increasing across Michigan, according to MDHHS.

That’s why the department is encouraging residents to take steps to avoid tick bites while they’re outside this summer.

“Preventing tick bites is the best way to prevent tick-borne diseases, including Lyme disease and anaplasmosis,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, MDHHS chief medical executive. “If you find a tick attached to your body, promptly remove it. Monitor your health and if you experience fever, rash, muscle or joint aches or other symptoms, consult with your medical provider.”

What to watch out for

Michigan health officials are urging health care providers to consider tick-borne diseases in people who have a fever or other non-specific symptoms during the warm months.

Signs and symptoms of tick-borne disease typically begin one to two weeks after a tick bite or being in wooded or brushy areas where ticks commonly live. Early symptoms can be non-specific and include fever or chills, rash, headache, fatigue and muscle aches. Early treatment with appropriate antibiotics can decrease the risk of serious complications.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease in the United States. It is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected blacklegged tick. Symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a skin rash. If it goes untreated it can spread to the joints, the heart and the nervous system.

Your healthcare provider can diagnose Lyme disease based on your symptoms, physical findings and the possibility of exposure to infected ticks. Most cases can be treated with a few weeks of antibiotics.


Anaplasmosis is caused by the bacterium Anaplasma phagocytophilum. It is spread to people by tick bites, primarily from the blacklegged tick.

People with anaplasmosis will often have fever, headache, chills, and muscle aches. Doxycycline is the drug of choice for adults and children of all ages with anaplasmosis, according to the CDC.

Reported cases of anaplasmosis in Michigan residents jumped from 17 confirmed and probable cases in 2020 to 56 in 2021. Counties with the largest increase in anaplasmosis cases include Dickinson and Menominee in the Upper Peninsula and Manistee and Benzie in the Lower Peninsula.

How to prevent tick bites

Ticks don’t just disappear in the winter. They can become active whenever the temperature rises above freezing. Ticks live in grassy, brushy or wooded areas -- or on animals. Many people get tick bites while in their own yard or neighborhood, according to the CDC.

The CDC recommends using EPA-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone. Click here to use the EPA’s tool to find the insect repellent best suited for your needs.

You should avoid wooded and brushy areas, if you can, and stay in the center of trails when you’re hiking. You can also tuck your pants into your socks and use pants that have an elastic waistband as that can be more of a barrier for ticks. Light colored clothing also makes spotting ticks easier

Check your clothing for ticks when you’re done spending time outdoors. You can tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill any ticks that may be hiding on dry clothing. If the clothes have to be washed first the CDC recommends using hot water as cold and medium temperature water will not kill ticks.

Showering within two hours of coming indoors can reduce your risk of getting Lyme disease. Showering may help wash off unattached ticks, according to the CDC.

Where to check yourself for ticks:

  • In and around the ears
  • In and around the hair
  • Under the arms
  • Inside the belly button
  • Around the waist
  • Between the legs
  • Back of the knees

Where to check your pet for ticks:

  • In and around the ears
  • Around the tail
  • Around the eyelids
  • Under the collar
  • Under the front legs
  • Between the back legs
  • Between the toes

What to do if you find a tick

If you are able to you should put the tick in a small, clean and sealable container so that it can be identified.

Michigan residents and visitors can mail a tick or email photos of a tick to MDHHS EZID to get a tick identified for free. The state suggests using a small container, like a pill bottle, to store the tick and mail it.

MailMichigan Department of Health and Human Services
EZID Section
333 S Grand Avenue, 3rd Floor
PO Box 30195
Lansing, Michigan 48933
Notes:Write FRAGILE or HANDLE WITH CARE on the outside of the package.
EmailSend an email to MDHHS-Bugs@michigan.gov
Notes:Place the tick on a well-lit background. Take a picture as close to the tick as possible and make sure it isn’t blurry. Email two pictures with information on where you found the tick to the email address above.

How to safely remove a tick

You can use fine-tipped tweezers or a tick removal key (you can find these at most pet stores and outdoor stores) to remove the tick. You should grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible.

If the tick’s mouthparts are still on the skin and can’t be removed easily you should leave the bite site alone to heal. Wash the bite site and your hands with soap and water and then use an antiseptic on the bite site.

Click here to learn more about how to submit a picture of a tick.

Read more: Let’s talk about Michigan ticks: 5 you should be familiar with, how to prevent a bite and what to do if you find one

About the Author:

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.