JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – It’s the beginning of tick season in the United States. Ticks are most active between April and September, the warmer months. Did you know those little bugs can cause more than just Lyme disease? Ticks can cause over 15 different types of illnesses. Mississippi is also home to five out of seven different types of ticks in the country. Now is the time to be prepared for possible tick exposure.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) outlines all the precautionary measures you can take to avoid tick exposure.

First, keep yourself protected. Ticks live in grassy, brushy or wooded areas. Be aware of where you’re walking when you’re camping, hunting, gardening or walking your dog. Avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter. Be sure to walk in the middle of trails. Treat your clothes with products that contain 0.5% permethrin. You can also use insect repellents that are registered by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Once you come inside, check your clothes, body, gear and pets for ticks. Tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for ten minutes to kill ticks on dry clothes. Shower within two hours of coming indoors to reduce your risk of getting Lyme disease. Use a hand-held or full-length mirror to inspect yourself for ticks. Check all of the following areas:

  • under your arms
  • in and around your ears
  • inside your belly button
  • back of your knees
  • in and around your hair
  • between your legs
  • around your waist

A tick should be removed from your pet immediately. Search for ticks in these areas on your pet:

  • in and around their ears
  • around their tail
  • around their eyelid
  • under their collar
  • between their back legs
  • under their front legs
  • between their toes

Reduce your risk of exposure in your yard. Take these precautions to reduce the chance of ticks invading your yard:

  • Use a pesticide
  • Remove leaf litter
  • Clear tall grasses and brush around your home and at the edge of your lawn
  • Place a 3-foot wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas to restrict tick migration
  • Mow the lawn frequently
  • Stack wood neatly in a dry area
  • Keep playground equipment, decks and patios away from yard edges and trees
  • Discourage unwelcome animals from entering your yard by constructing fences
  • Remove old furniture, mattresses or trash from your yard that may give ticks a place to hide

Now you know how to prevent the risk of tick exposure. What happens if you still get bit by a tick? Follow these steps to remove it:

  1. Use clean, fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
  2. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick. Doing so could cause the mouth-arts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth parts with tweezers. If you can’t remove the mouth easily with tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
  3. Thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
  4. Never crush a tick with your fingers. Dispose of a live tick by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag or container, wrapping it tightly in tape or flushing in down the toilet

If you’re bit by a tick, it’s important to know the symptoms of tickborne illness. All tickborne illness can cause fever. It can also cause headache, fatigue, muscle aches and rashes. Tell your healthcare provider what your symptoms are and the geographic region you were bitten in.

Ticks can detect your body heat, breath, body odor and vibrations. They often sit on leaves in well-used paths to quickly climb on to you as you pass by. They start the feeding process by grasping onto your skin and cutting into the surface. Many species secrete a cement-like substance that keeps them firmly attached to you. They insert a feeding tube with barbs on it to begin feeding. Their saliva also has anesthetic properties that keep you from feeling when the tick has attached itself.

Learn more about ticks and how to avoid them here. Know what ticks look like by clicking here.