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Tick season is the time of year when ticks are most active. During this period, humans and pets are more prone to contracting tickborne illnesses, especially in northern regions of the United States and woodland areas. Preventing tick bites with clothing and repellents, promptly removing ticks, and appropriately treating symptoms of tick disease are all integral to tick season safety.
While ticks can spread illness year-round, their populations increase from late spring through early fall in the United States. Warm months are also when people spend more time outdoors, increasing their chances of coming in contact with ticks. As such, most cases of Lyme disease, the most common tickborne illness, happen during tick season. Furthermore, nearly all cases of Lyme disease occur in northern states stretching from the East Coast to the Midwest in the US. Ticks are also prevalent in wooded and grassy areas, and even places around the home, like yards.
Preventing tick bites is the most effective way to reduce the risk of tickborne illnesses. During tick season, it is best to avoid areas where ticks are likely to live. If humans must enter such areas, they should wear clothing that covers as much skin as possible, blocking off possible entry points by tucking shirts into pants and pants into socks. Applying insect repellents to the skin that contain 20% or more of the ingredient N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide, commonly known as DEET, and covering clothing with permethrin-based insecticides are also helpful. Bug sprays must always be used according to their directions to prevent harm.
Animals are also prone to tickborne illnesses, as ticks can use them as hosts as well. Pets can be vaccinated against some of these diseases, and repellents or special collars can be worn by pets to prevent tick bites or kill any ticks that do bite. It is important to consult a veterinarian before using such products, because certain chemicals might be harmful to pets, especially cats. Keeping yards and other areas frequented by pets and humans clean and free of leaves, tall grasses, and stray animals also decreases tick infestations and bites.
In addition to Lyme disease, ticks can spread several other illnesses, some of them severe and even fatal. It is, therefore, important to respond to tick bites and symptoms of tick disease promptly and appropriately. Frequently and thoroughly checking humans and pets for ticks during tick season is crucial, since studies show that removing a tick within 24 to 36 hours of a bite makes it unlikely that the host will contract a disease. A tick should be removed using only fine-tipped tweezers to grasp it as close to the skin as possible, then pulling upward in a smooth, steady motion. Humans who develop a rash or fever and animals that exhibit behavior or appetite changes within days or weeks of a tick bite should get professional attention.
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