With nearly 100 green public spaces encompassing some 10,000 thousand acres, a day in the life of any Philadelphian might include a run or walk in the park. But beware. Many of the City’s grassy, wooded areas are home to small ticks that bite and feed on the blood of other animals, including humans.

Because ticks can carry germs that cause human diseases, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health is urging everyone to be on the lookout for these creatures when participating in outdoor activities. Although ticks are most active in warmer weather, they can be found in Philadelphia year-round.

Blacklegged ticks, also called deer ticks, are the most common ticks in Philadelphia and are known to spread Lyme disease, as well as other tickborne diseases. Lyme disease can cause flu-like symptoms and often begins with a rash in the shape of a bull’s-eye at the infection site. Left untreated, Lyme disease can cause serious health problems to your heart, joints, and nervous system. Therefore, it’s important to talk about ways to prevent tick bites that lead to tickborne illnesses.

Tick bite prevention

Tick bite prevention begins at home before you even step outside your door. The health department recommends using tick repellents approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Wear protective clothing that is light in color so that you are better able to see ticks that might latch onto you. Also, if it’s not too hot, wear clothes that cover most of your skin. You might also look into using products, such as permethrin, to treat clothing and that provide protection against ticks, even after several washings. Once outdoors, try to avoid tick habitats by walking in the center of trails and staying away from grassy, overgrown areas.

Remove ticks promptly

After returning indoors, conduct a full-body check for ticks. Because they are small and bites are painless they can easily go unnoticed. Be sure, too, to check for ticks on young children and teach older kids to check for ticks themselves. Also, it’s important to shower and wash off any ticks you may not have noticed. Because ticks can latch onto clothing and gear, toss those items into the dryer on high heat for about 10 minutes. That will kill any remaining ticks. If you’re a pet owner, check pets for ticks and talk to your veterinarian about preventive products to help protect your animals.

Once you find a tick, remove it as quickly as possible. The longer a tick stays attached, the better chance it has of transmitting bacteria that can cause disease. It’s best to remove ticks with clean, fine-tipped tweezers. Grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible and pull upward with steady, even pressure. Once you have disposed of the tick, wash your hands and the area where the tick attached itself to you or your child with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.

Symptoms to watch for

Over the next few weeks, check the site where the tick attached itself to you or your child’s body as a rash may develop. A rash could be a symptom of Lyme disease. Early symptoms of Lyme disease usually occur within the first month of a tick bite and, as mentioned earlier, may include a rash in the shape of a bull’s-eye, like the pattern on a dart board. Other early symptoms may include headaches, fever, muscle aches and fatigue. If you develop these symptoms, call your doctor immediately.

Stay well

The health department is advising people to check for ticks whenever they spend time in parks and other wooded areas. Remember, while ticks are more active in warm-weather months, they can be found in the city year-round. By all means, enjoy the City’s abundant green spaces. A brisk walk in the park can be good for you. Just use caution and stay well, Philadelphia.