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posted: 5/7/2013 12:46 PM

Don't let ticks ruin your summer fun

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  • A wood tick clings to a pencil used for scale.

    A wood tick clings to a pencil used for scale.
    Associated Press

Lake County Forest Preserve District submission

Warmer weather will be here to stay soon, and with it comes the draw toward outdoor activities. While enjoying these activities, don't forget to take action to prevent bites from ticks.

Ticks can infect humans and wildlife with bacteria, viruses and parasites that can cause serious illness.

There are two species of ticks in Lake County: deer tick and wood tick. Of these two species, only deer ticks can pass on Lyme disease. However, wood ticks, also referred to as American dog ticks, do have the ability to pass on other bacterial infections such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia.

Before you go outdoors, choose light-colored clothing, tuck long pants into socks and apply an insect repellent containing DEET to your clothes. Products containing permethrin can kill ticks. These products can be purchased at many outdoor recreational retailers and are used to treat boots, clothing and gear for extended protection against ticks, mites and nuisance insects.

During outdoor activities, know where to expect ticks. They are most commonly found near wooded areas and tall grasses. Stay on trails when hiking and keep lawns and grass around play equipment trimmed short. Ticks wait on tall vegetation and grasp onto any large object that passes.

It is a myth that ticks drop from above onto your head. They start low and crawl upward in search of a site to latch onto the host's skin.

Before you enter your car and after you come indoors, check your clothing thoroughly for ticks. Remove any ticks found on your clothing and dispose of them. Placing clothing in a dryer on high heat for one hour kills ticks and can prevent ticks from dropping off in your home to search for a host. Once clothing has been checked, check your body for ticks and shower soon after being outdoors.

Showering can flush off unattached ticks and provides the best view for a full body tick check. Be sure to look in potential hiding spots as well as open skin. Check under your arms, in and around your ears, in your belly button, behind your knees and so on.

If you find an attached tick remove it immediately by grasping near its head with small tweezers, as close to your skin as possible, and pulling it straight out slowly. Following removal, watch for signs of illness such as rash near the attachment site or fever. Visit a health care provider if any symptoms develop.

For details regarding tick prevention, visit the Lake County Health Department's Environmental Services online. The health department offers visual identification tips, a fact sheet on tick prevention and a brief video on how to avoid ticks and what to do if you find a tick on yourself or your pet.