ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — A walk through the woods is supposed to make you feel good. The health benefits of hiking are well known, but there is one health concern that everyone needs to be aware of. Ticks.

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) warns that this is the height of tick season and that ticks can carry a variety of diseases, including Lyme disease. VDH reports about 1,000 cases of tick-borne Lyme disease every year in the Commonwealth.

There are multiple species of ticks in Virginia, but the primary culprit for the spread of Lyme disease is the blacklegged tick. They are tiny, measuring only about 1/16 of an inch long. They are usually found on the ground in dense leaf cover in wooded areas.

While it is a good idea to be tick aware at this time of year, VDH offers some other ideas to protect yourself from ticks:

  • Use tick-specific insect repellent
  • Tuck pant legs into socks while hiking to create an extra layer of protection
  • Check for ticks while on the trail
  • After hiking, do a complete body check for ticks and then shower to rinse away any unattached ticks
Size comparison: tick on a human finger (Photo courtesy: City of Arlington)

Because ticks are so small and because their bite is painless, people generally do not know they have been bitten. One of the first symptoms of Lyme disease is a rash near the bite that may appear as a bullseye.

Other symptoms can include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Muscle & joint pain
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Lyme disease is treatable, especially if caught early. If you develop symptoms you should see a doctor as soon as possible.