INDIANAPOLIS — With summer weather on the way, health officials are warning us about steadily increasing tick activity and the diseases the insects can spread.

From 1995 to 2019, cases of Lyme disease reported to the CDC increased from roughly 12,000 to 35,000 per year. However, most cases are not reported to the agency, so the CDC believes the actual number to be closer to 475,000.

Most people are somewhat familiar with Lyme disease, but the CDC is urging Americans to learn more about it and how to prevent it.  

In common cases, a person contracts Lyme disease bacteria when a tick attaches itself to their body — normally in a hidden area like the scalp, armpit or groin.

According to the CDC, a tick needs to be attached to a human body for 36 to 48 hours in order to transmit the bacteria. So in general, experts say, if you find a tick and remove it from your body within 24 hours, you have a low risk of catching the disease.

Early symptoms of Lyme disease include muscle and joint pain, headache, fever, chills, fatigue and swollen lymph nodes. About 80% of infected people get some kind of skin rash.

Early treatment usually includes antibiotics. Left untreated, the infection spreads to the heart and joints, causing permanent damage. Later symptoms can include irregular heartbeat, arthritis and problems with the nervous system.

Health experts say it is crucially important to check your body and your children’s bodies after spending time in a wooded area during the summer months. 

They recommend wearing light-colored clothing so you can see if a tick is on you, as well as long pants, long-sleeved shirts and shoes that cover the entire foot.

Depending on how thick the wooded area is, you might want to tuck in your shirt, tuck your pant legs into your socks and wear a hat.

This undated photo provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows a blacklegged tick, also known as a deer tick. Ticks will be more active than usual early in spring 2023, and that means Lyme disease and other tick-borne infections could spread earlier and in greater numbers than in a typical year. Ticks can transmit multiple diseases that sicken humans, and deer ticks, which spread Lyme, are a day-to-day fact of life in the warm months in New England and the Midwest. (CDC via AP, File)

Also, make sure to wear insect repellent, which includes treating your clothing and gear with products that contain Permethrin.

If you do find a tick on your body, use tweezers to carefully remove it.  Remember, you have to get the whole thing out, including the head, which may be detached inside your skin.  

Taking all these steps can go a long way toward preventing a debilitating infection down the road.

The CDC has many more tips for prevention and detection on their homepage for Lyme disease.