Prevent tick bites, prevent illness

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Due to a high number of illnesses in 2012, the health department is offering residents ways to avoid tick bites this season.

According to the Illinois Department of Health, tick bites can lead to illnesses that can cause mild symptoms, severe infections requiring hospitalization, and even death.

In 2012, Illinois saw 50 cases of ehrlichiosis, four cases of tularemia, 204 cases of Lyme disease, and 151 cases of Rock Mountain spotted fever, from which one person died.

Click here to see where different types of ticks are in the United States.

The department’s director, Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck said antibiotics can treat tick bite illnesses, but there are simple precautions people can take to avoid them altogether.

  • Avoid brushing against weeds by walking in the center of hiking trails.
  • Use repellent that contains 20 to 30-percent DEET on exposed skin. Always follow product instructions.
  • Use products that contain permethrin to treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks, and tents.
  • Wearing light-colored clothing can make ticks easier to spot should they get on your clothes.
  • Tuck long pants into socks and boots.
  • In areas with high tick populations, check yourself, children, and other family members frequently (especially ears, hair, neck, legs, and between toes).
  • Pets that go outdoors should be checked for ticks as well. Ticks can “hitch a ride” on your animals and get into your house. Tick collars, sprays, and shampoos can help protect your pets.

The department of health said that if you do find a tick, remove it promptly. It is recommended that you grasp it with a pair of fine-point tweezers as close to the skin as possible, and gently but firmly pull it straight out. Do not twist or jerk the tick. Wash the bite area and your hands thoroughly with soap and apply an antiseptic to the bitten area.