Consumer Reports: Protecting your family from ticks

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Tick-borne diseases are on the rise, and according to a new report, they are a part of a growing public health problem leading to potentially serious illnesses. With tick season in full swing, 7 On Your Side's Michael Finney has advice on how to protect you and your family from these blood-sucking creatures.

While not all ticks carry the same diseases, at least one variety of disease-transmitting tick can be found in every state. Lyme disease is the most common. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that about 300,000 Americans develop Lyme each year, and we could see even more this year.

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"While one theory is that warmer weather, longer seasons mean that there is a longer period of time for ticks to be active," said Catherine Roberts, Consumer Reports Health Editor. "Another theory is that the spread of ticks' hosts, so mainly deer, is getting bigger. They are in more places, which means ticks are in more places, which means that we have a great chance of running across them," she said.

The best way to avoid a tick-borne infection is not to get bitten in the first place by always using an effective insect repellent.

Consumer Reports extensive testing of insect repellents found products that contain between 15 and 30-percent Deet are best at repelling ticks, along with products with 20-percent Picaridin or 30-percent "Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus."

To make your yard less attractive to ticks, Consumer Reports says to keep your lawn mowed, remove leaves and other debris, and try to let as much sun into your yard as possible. A border of wood chips or bark-style mulch around your property can also help create a barrier to keep ticks from entering.

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"When you're in wooded areas, you want to make sure to wear long sleeves, long pants, closed toes shoes, and it's a good idea to tuck your pants into your socks," said Roberts.

If you do find a tick, use tweezers to gently remove the whole body, including the head. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. For extra protection, after you come back inside, toss your clothes into a dryer on high heat for ten minutes to kill ticks that might still be hanging on. If the clothes are damp, additional time may be needed.

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Written and produced by Justin Mendoza
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