Preventing tick bites is crucial, experts say

Ticks are already active and out in full force in the New York area, including Long Island. This could be a bad tick season, so you need to protect yourself and your family.

Pulling white flannel across a grassy area to find ticks that cling to the fabric is known as "dragging." It allows researchers to learn what populations are in the area and what stages the ticks are in.

"We have the dog tick, the lone star tick, which is actually the most numerous overall, and then we have the deer tick or the blacklegged tick, which is the same thing," said Dr. Tamson Yeh of Cornell Cooperative Extension for Suffolk County. "The blacklegged or deer tick is the one that people are most frightened of because that's the one that carries Lyme disease."

Dr. Yeh, a pest management specialist, said it is too early to officially predict this year's tick season. While some scientists attribute an increase to mice eating the abundance of acorns, Yeh said recent moisture and rain is exactly what the deer tick prefers. Preventing tick bites is key.

"When you select your repellant, make sure that you have something that has not only DEET in it but also either LR3535 and picaridin.

About 300,000 cases of Lyme disease are diagnosed annually in the United States. The majority of cases are in 14 states, including New York. Doctors recommend testing for the disease if you've been in a wooded area and have symptoms.

"The tick has to be attached generally for an extended period of time before it will transmit the infection," said Dr. Janice Verley of Nassau University Medical Center. "That's thought to be 36 to 48 hours."

Doctors say that ticks can spread more than Lyme disease; they can transmit bacterial, viral, and protozoal pathogens.

Dr. Yeh spotted a lone star nymph the size of a pin on the cloth. Once it has a blood meal it will become an adult. 

"Ticks can't live in trees, they don't drop out of trees on you, but they do walk very quickly up to your head or ear area because if you're a grazing animal, that's the warm area," Dr. Yeh said. "So mostly they're moved around, the lone stars, by deer."

When it comes to protecting your property, cedar oil has shown to act as an organic deterrent. Wear long sleeves and thoroughly check yourself and any pets after walking through the woods.