To avoid Lyme, put this woodland pest to rest

After a harsh winter and -- in many parts of the country -- a chilly spring, you probably can't wait to get outdoors this summer.

Whether it's an alfresco picnic... a swim in the lake... a walk in the woods... the open air is beckoning!

I know you're excited to trade your sweaters and jeans for shorts and t-shirts, but don't put those long sleeves and long pants away quite yet -- because the summer of 2017 is shaping up to be a banner year for a critter you definitely don't want on your skin.

I'm talking about ticks, the carriers of Lyme disease -- and if experts' predictions are right, they're going to be out in droves this season.

It turns out that a bumper crop of acorns is feeding a rapidly-expanding population of mice, and these little guys are common carriers of infected ticks.

That could translate to a big spike in new Lyme cases!

You want to do everything to protect yourself, because if you get infected with Lyme, the disease can work its way into your heart, brain, joints, and digestive tract, where it wreaks havoc.

Lyme can even mimic the symptoms of debilitating diseases like chronic fatigue, MS, and Alzheimer's!

It's also really difficult to diagnose and treat because the sneaky bacteria can "disguise" themselves in tissue and escape detection by your immune system.

So, even though wearing long sleeves and pants tucked into your socks may sound a bit too confining in the summer heat, that's exactly what you should put on if you're venturing into nature this summer -- especially if you live where Lyme is most prevalent, like in the Midwest and right here in the Northeast.

Heck, I'd even recommend spraying your clothing with insecticide as an extra line of defense or giving your skin an aroma that "ticks" them off
-- everything from garlic to essential oils of lavender and citronella can help repel them.

As an added precaution, toss your clothes in the dryer for 10 minutes when you get home to kill any of the interlopers who may have tagged along for the ride.

Ticks are typically the size of a poppy seed, so they're hard to spot -- even with your glasses on. Soap up in the shower and run your hands along your skin to make sure there aren't any little "bumps", a telltale sign of where these pests have burrowed in.

Immediately pluck them out with tweezers if you find them!

And, if the worst comes to pass and you get bitten, stay on the alert for Lyme's earliest symptoms.

Sometimes, but not always, you'll see a rash that looks like a "bull's-eye" around the tick bite. You might also feel like you've caught a bad case of the flu.

Just be on guard if no symptoms appear right away -- because they can take up to six months to show up.