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10 tips to beat the ticks

Experts predict that unseasonably warm weather in the Northeast may trigger a rise in Lyme disease. NBC's Mara Schiavocampo reports.

By Craig Stanley
NBC News

This year’s unusually warm winter brought extra sunshine, and along with it, the early arrival of tick season.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, 12 diseases are transmitted by some types of ticks — including Lyme disease.  Use these tips to reduce the risk of tick bites while maximizing your outdoor summer fun.

1) Avoid ticks as much as possible! They love to hide in wooded and bushy areas with tall grass and leaf litter. When you’re out in these types of areas, wear light-colored clothing with long pants tucked into socks. That makes it easier to detect ticks on your clothing and helps keep them away from your ankles.

2) To protect your skin from ticks, the Centers for Disease Control suggests using an EPA-approved repellent that contains 20 percent or more DEET for several hours of defense. To safeguard your clothes, experts recommend any EPA-approved repellent that has permethrin.

3) Apply your repellent before doing any yard work, clearing leaves, or participating in any other landscaping activity that carries the risk of tick exposure. Use it on your clothing and gear, including boots, pants, socks and even tents.  Pre-treated clothes are also available in stores and online.

4) Parents should apply repellent for their children, carefully avoiding the eyes, nose and mouth.

5) If you’re hiking on a trail, stay in the center as to avoid contact with vegetation and avoid sitting on the ground.

6) Ticks can ride home on clothing and pets, and attach to a person later, so carefully check your animal companions, coats and backpacks after visiting high-risk areas.

7) Be sure to shower, and to wash and dry your clothing soon after returning home. While many ticks can survive a warm or hot water machine wash, they can’t survive one hour in a hot dryer.

AP Photo/Mike Groll

In this March 23, 2012 photo, Armando Morales walks his German shepherd Athena at Saratoga Spa State Park in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. The mild winter means ticks are going to be stirring earlier this year as they begin searching for the blood meals, experts say.

8) Do a full-body check for ticks using a mirror and remove any attached ticks.  Tick bites are usually painless, so you may not notice a tick without a careful inspection.

9) Parents should check their children for ticks, especially under the arms, around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, around the waist, and in the hair.

10) If you do find a tick, remove it immediately. Use thin-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin surface as possible and pull straight up. Then disinfect the area with soap or a topical antibiotic. Watch for signs of illness, such as rash or fever, and see a health care provider if these symptoms develop.