Health & Wellness

More ticks are expected in the DC area this summer, experts warn

Here's how doctors say you can protect your family during this tick season

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Experts are warning there may be an uptick in ticks nationwide this summer because of a warm winter that kept ticks active for longer.

"There's a lot of impressions that, because it was a mild winter, that we're having an earlier sort of explosion in the ticks that are born," said Dr. Alexandra Yonts, a pediatric infectious diseases physician at Children’s National Hospital in D.C.

There are still simple ways you can protect yourself and your family.

"Top tips include insect repellent with 20% or higher DEET, wearing long-sleeved clothes," Yonts said. "And then taking a shower or bath as soon as you come inside. That will rinse the mosquitoes or the ticks off and prevent hopefully infection."

There are also key places on the body to check, where ticks are more likely to try to hide.

"The first place to check would be on the legs, around the cuffs of socks [and] pants," Yonts said.

Ticks live in tall grass, wooded areas and small shrubs, according to the Lyme Disease Association, so the bugs are likely to end up low on your body after a hike or a trip to a farm.

"Checking behind the knee crevices sort of in the leg folds or the crotch where the legs meet, the body under the armpits, and in particular, girls with long hair checking under the scalp and in the hair" is important, Yonts said.

If you do find a tick in your search, carefully remove it with tweezers and then save it, if you can.

"We do recommend saving the tick and taking a picture of it," Yonts said. "And an easy way to do that is to put the tick into a small plastic container and put it in the fridge or the freezer so it  doesn't crawl around and you make sure it’s dead."

"You can reach out to your doctor, send them that picture if you have it, and they will give you advice on what to do next," Yonts said.

Infected ticks can spread bacteria, viruses and parasites that make people sick. Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne infection in the U.S., with nearly a half-million Americans diagnosed with it each year.

Yonts says, depending on the type of tick you find, you may need to take an antibiotic. But most people recover quickly.

"We really have a beautiful area with lots of wonderful outdoor spaces — Rock Creek Park, surrounding national parks and regional parks," Yonts said. "And we don't want to tell people to not enjoy those. So we want you to do it safely."

Your furry friends also need to be checked for ticks. Pets, especially long-haired dogs, can bring ticks into the home and should be checked every time they go out.

Tick season typically lasts through October.

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