It's summer, and there are plenty of reasons to be outside.
Backyard barbecues, youth camps, community festivals and hiking on trails are among the many activities that get people out of their homes.
Though there's a ton of fun to be had, some dangers lurk in these adventures, including encounters with insects.
Ticks and mosquitoes are of particular concern because of the diseases they can carry.
Tick-borne diseases include Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Mosquitoes can carry West Nile virus, among other illnesses.
But local experts say there are many steps people can take to avoid contact with these and other pests while enjoying summer activities.
Dr. Karen Jordan, a dermatologist with Dermatology Associates of Northwest Indiana, said an easy way to protect yourself is to simply cover up when going out.
“Wear closed shoes, long sleeves, long pants, tall socks and tuck your pants into the socks so that your ankles are not exposed,” Jordan said.
She also advises people to wear a shirt with a collar or bandana to cover their necks. Hats should always be worn, and long hair should be pulled up in them.
Jordan said it could be beneficial to wear light-colored clothing because insects are easier to see on it.
Insect repellents containing permethrin can be sprayed on shoes, clothing and gear and left to dry overnight. But it should not be applied to the skin.
“The treatment will last through several washings and is more effective at keeping insects away than typical skin repellents such as DEET,” Jordan said.
Clothing treated with permethrin also is available.
Jordan suggests designating certain clothing as outdoor gear and not wearing it in homes unless you're sure it's clear of bugs.
Permethrin also can be applied to a harness and bandana to protect dogs as well.
If people decide not to wear long sleeves or long pants and expose skin, an insect repellent should be applied. “This is another layer of protection,” Jordan said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using repellents that contain one of the following active ingredients — DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus or 2-undecanone.
“Any of the typical spray repellents you can find at the grocery store (or) outdoor stores will be fine,” Jordan said.
She said sunscreen is also a must when heading outdoors, adding that it should be applied before the insect repellent.
Among common species in Northwest Indiana are blacklegged ticks, American dog ticks and brown dog ticks, said Janelle Iaccino, of Franklin Pest Solutions in Hammond, a partner of the Dunes Learning Center.
Blacklegged ticks and American dog ticks hide in grassy areas, she said, hopping on people and pets as they pass by.
When hiking, it's best to stay on the center of the trail and avoid touching grasses and bushes.
Iaccino said brown dog ticks, which as their name states prefer canines to humans, survive best in the warm, dry conditions found indoors and can transmit diseases to dogs.
After any time spent outdoors, people should take a shower immediately, Jordan said. They also should check for ticks on their bodies, Iaccino said.
It's important to check under arms, behind ears, in belly buttons and other folds in skin because ticks like warm spots, Jordan said. Examine dogs and cats, too.
If bitten by a tick, it should be removed using tweezers, Iaccino said. She recommends pulling upward with steady and even pressure. Don't twist or jerk the tick or attempt to pop it because that can increase the chance of disease transmission.
Jordan said to place the tick in a sealable storage bag in case it needs to be identified later.
“I recommend visiting your doctor as soon as possible to be safe,” she said.
Iaccino said there are also several steps that can be taken to help prevent mosquitoes in yards.
Since mosquitoes can breed in small amounts of water, she says it's important to check grill covers, buckets, flower pots and trash cans and other common items for collected water.
Windows and door openings also should be properly screened to keep insects from entering homes. Patch tears in screens, for example, Iaccino said.
She recommends contacting a licensed pest control company or local mosquito abatement district if there are concerns about mosquito activity on properties.