SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WMBD) — The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is educating Illinois residents to protect themselves during Lyme Disease Awareness Month.

According to a press release, IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra said that the most important thing families could do is diligently check themselves, their pets, and help children with a tick check after spending time in areas where ticks live, including near wooded areas, tall grass, and brush.

Removing ticks within 24 hours can reduce the risk of potential disease transmission.

“Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne illness in the United States,” Vohra said. “We encourage everyone who enjoys spending time outdoors to get educated about how to protect themselves from tickborne illnesses. Please review our many IDPH resources and join us as we all work together to Fight the Bite.”

IDPH has released an interactive map to track where different species of ticks have been located in Illinois.

Here is a list of tips from IDPH on how to avoid tickborne illnesses:

  • Learn about tick removal and symptom awareness (IDPH website).
  • Walk in the center of trails. Avoid wooded, brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
  • Wear light-colored clothing to make ticks easier to find. Tuck long pants into socks and boots.
  • Apply an EPA-registered insect repellent containing 20% DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus according to label directions.
  • Treat clothing and gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin. Permethrin can be used to treat boots, clothing and camping gear and remain protective through several washings
  • Conduct full-body tick checks on family members (underarms, ears, belly button, behind knees, between legs, waist, hair and scalp) every two to three hours. Also check any gear or pets taken on outings.
  • Put your clothes in the dryer on high for 10 minutes (or one hour for damp clothes) to kill ticks.
  • Shower within two hours after coming indoors.

Other tickborne illnesses to be aware of, in addition to lyme disease, include Spotted Fever Group Rickettsiosis, tularemia, ehrlichiosis and babesiosis.

The department also unveiled a new “Fight the Bite”: Tick Defense flyer and Knowledge Check crossword puzzle to help teach families about tickborne illnesses.

Anyone who develops a rash or a fever after being in an area where ticks may have been should contact their health care provider.