With Lyme on the rise, tick prevention is important

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As warmer weather heads our way, it can be tough to fight the inclination to spend countless carefree hours outdoors. While it's always worthwhile to get outside, a few precautions can go a long way in preventing your exposure to ticks and the myriad diseases that they carry.

Vermont has a particularly high incidence of Lyme disease, with more reported cases than any other state in 2015. Within the state, Bennington County topped the list with over 200 confirmed cases per 100,000 in population, according to the Vermont Department of Health.

Ticks are most active in Vermont between late spring and early fall, and reports of tick-borne illnesses such as Lyme peak in the summer months.

Though fear of ticks should not prevent you from enjoying the outdoors, there are ways to limit your exposure.

Ticks tend to live in wooded areas or among the brush, and often attach to a host by perching on the edge of low lying leaves or grass. If you find yourself in a wooded or grassy area, try to avoid direct contact with the brush by walking on groomed trails or bare areas when possible.

The best way to protect yourself from ticks is to cover your skin with pants, long sleeves, and long socks. Tucking your shirt into your pants, and your pants in your socks, can go a long way in preventing ticks from latching on to your skin.

The Vermont Department of Health recommends using an insect repellent with 20 to 30 percent DEET on any exposed skin, in tandem with the application of permethrin onto your clothing. Permethrin kills ticks on contact and will remain effective through several washings, but should not be applied directly to the skin.

Before going inside, make sure you remove any ticks from your clothing.

Once indoors, put your clothing in the dryer for about 10 minutes to kill any parasites that may have hitched a ride. Use a mirror to check your body, as well as those of your children, before showering.

If you do find a tick on your body, don't panic. Try to remove it as quickly as possible to prevent the transmission of diseases such as Lyme. Using fine tipped tweezers, or a similar implement, grab the tick as closely to the skin as possible (do not grab the tick with your bare hands). Without twisting or yanking, pull the tick upwards as firmly as possible until it is completely removed.

To safely dispose of a live tick, place it in alcohol or flush it down the toilet. Clean the bite, and your hands, with soap and water and apply an antiseptic. Monitor the bite closely for any irritation, or the hallmark bull's-eye rash (though this may not appear in every instance of Lyme). Symptoms of Lyme include joint pain, muscle aches, fever, headache, and fatigue and can occur anywhere from three to thirty days after bite. Contact your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms following a tick bite.

When you protect yourself properly, it's even easier to enjoy the great trails and forests our state has to offer.

Cherise Madigan is a regular contributor to Get Outside.

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