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HEALTHBEAT 4: Protecting yourself from ticks

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SERGEANT BLUFF, Iowa (KTIV) -- A lot of people are headed outdoors as the weather warms up. But ticks are a big part of the summer months.

Tick season runs from May to November with a peak around August. If you don't protect yourself properly, that can lead to some major health issues like Lyme disease.

Each year, about 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported to the CDC. But, the agency estimates around 300,000 Americans actually contract Lyme disease annually.

"Any exposed skin is free game for ticks," said Jeanne Rasmussen, UnityPoint Health Clinic A.R.N.P

Protecting yourself from ticks may be a part of your summer routine. But, if it's not, what should you know?

First off, what do you do if you find a tick?

"They should remove it immediately," said Rasmussen. "You want to make sure you grab the base of the tick and pull straight up."

Checking yourself over for ticks is something Rasmussen said you should do daily.

"You could have them on your arms, you could have them on your legs, your stomach, your back," said Rasmussen.

Sometimes though, once you remove the tick, you may notice a bullseye.

"That's how we know it's Lyme Disease," said Rasmussen. "A lot of times you won't even know that you had it or that you had the tick, it just falls off on its own, and then it's several days to 30 days later that you start getting symptoms."

Symptoms such as body aches, fever, or muscle pain. If left untreated, the infection can spread.

"It can get into the joint space and cause damage to your joints, to the nerve endings and you could have pain, you could have swelling and lifelong complications," said Rasmussen.

So how can you protect yourself? Rasmussen said to use an approved insect repellent.

"Wearing long sleeves, wearing pants when you are out," said Rasmussen. "Ticks don't jump or fly. They will typically crawl to the top of a large blade of grass and wait for someone to walk by and get in there."

The biggest piece of advice? "Start at your head and go all the way down to your toes," said Rasmussen.

Rasmussen said because those symptoms are flu-like, it can be hard to distinguish between the two. But, she said to call your primary care provider if you are unsure.

Michaela Feldmann

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