Summer is definitely my favorite time of the year, but it’s usually right around this time that I start to panic a bit. There’s just so much to do to prepare for spending all day outside! I start to stock up on sunscreen, make sure my kids have plenty of play clothes and swim suits, and buy like 14 different types of bug spray. But a new warning has kicked my anxiety into overdrive, and now I’ve been googling ticks for like the last 45 minutes. According to Dr. Thomas “The Tick Guy” Mather from the University of Rhode Island, we’re on the precipice of a tick explosion this summer. The mental imagery that conjures up is absolutely horrifying.

Ticks are a major problem for different regions across the country. But this summer, a tick explosion is imminent, and parents need to be aware of the dangers.

Dr. Mather says, “So we had a mild winter, didn’t freeze too much and because of that the animal populations were active longer and that enable the tick populations to be active.” Which means that ticks are going to be in abundance in the warmer weather that’s about to hit. When I was a kid, we usually just worried about ticks on the dogs. But Dr. Mather is urging everyone to be hyper-vigilant this year.

Ticks aren’t just gross. Getting bitten by a tick increases your chances of catching some very serious diseases they carry, like Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is only transmitted to humans through infected black-legged ticks. A bite from an infected tick will have a rash that looks like a red bulls-eye around the bite site. Symptoms of Lyme include fatigue, fever, and headaches. If left untreated, Lyme can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system. It’s very serious. Ticks are a huge problem in areas like New England, Virginia, and Minnesota. But even parts of California and the South and Midwest have cases of tick-borne diseases like Lyme.

tick explosion

Image: iStock/Smileus

And Lyme isn’t the only tick-borne disease people need to be aware of. Different ticks carry different diseases. For example, dog ticks found in Eastern states can carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. In the Northeast and Midwest, the lone star tick can carry and transmit bacterial illnesses.

So what can you do to protect yourself and your family during this tick explosion?

There’s no reason to panic just yet. Luckily, there are plenty of steps you can take to keep those little bastards away from you and your loved ones (human and animal). Make sure your pets have flea and tick collars, or take a medication to keep fleas and ticks away. Spray your yard with a store-bought pesticide. If you’re going to be camping or hiking in an area with tall, untreated grass, wear long pants and socks, and keep as much of your skin covered as possible. And invest in a good insect repellent that contains DEET or picaridin.

In addition to the steps above, make a “tick check” part of your nightly routine. The quicker you spot and remove a tick after you’ve been bitten, the smaller the chance of the tick transmitting any diseases.

(Image: iStock / _jure)