Barbecues, long hikes in the mountains, a gentle stroll through the park, sharing a beer with friends in the backyard, a 5k race, biking along the country roads. Summer is a wonderful time to get outdoors and enjoy all that nature has to offer. The bugs agree! And some bugs, particularly ticks, bring disease with them. Don’t let the ticks chase you back indoors. Here are some ways to protect yourself:

• Wear light-weight, light-colored, long-sleeved shirts and long pants. Tuck your pants into your socks. This will help to keep the ticks off your skin and make the crawling ticks easier to see.

• Use insect repellent containing 20 to 50% DEET.

• Treat clothes and camping equipment (such as tents) with permethrin. Do not use permethrin directly on your skin and be sure to keep any item you are treating away from pets until it has thoroughly dried.

• When hiking, stay in the center of the trail. Stay away from high grass and other bushy areas where ticks live.

• Check for ticks every time after spending time in tall grass or bushy areas.

• Use a tick preventative and check your pets for ticks when they come in house.

If a tick has attached itself to you, be sure to remove it promptly and properly. Use tweezers to grab the tick close to the skin. Gently pull straight up – don’t twist – until the entire tick is removed. Wash the tick bite and your hands with soap and water.

A tick must remain attached for at least 24 hours to transmit Lyme disease, the most common tick-borne disease in Maryland. Early symptoms may include fever, headache, fatigue and possible rash. Lyme disease is easily treated with antibiotics if treated early. Contact your doctor if you develop symptoms after a tick bite or after being in tick habitat.

Remember, not every tick bite transmits disease. Take precautions, relax, and enjoy all that summer has to offer!

Liz Thompson, MSW, has been a case manager at the Frederick County Health Department for eight years.