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OKLAHOMA CITY – Warmer temperatures and sunny skies are in our future, but health experts say you should take precautions against summertime pests before going outside.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health is warning anyone who participates in outdoor activities about the dangers of tick bites.

Oklahoma ranks among the states with the highest rate of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, ehrlichiosis and tularemia in the country. Since 2012, there have been approximately 2,000 cases of the illnesses among Oklahoma residents.

In the past five years, four Oklahomans died due to tickborne diseases.

If you plan to participate in outdoor activities, health officials say you should adhere to the following recommendations:

  • Wear light-colored clothing to make ticks easier to see
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants tucked into socks to prevent tick bites
  • Wear closed-toe shoes, not sandals
  • Hikers and bikers should stay in the center of trails to avoid grass and brush
  • Check for ticks at least once per day along waistbands, hairlines, back of the neck, armpits and in the groin area
  • Remove attached ticks as soon as possible
  • Use an insect repellent containing 20% or more DEET, picaridin, or IR3535  on exposed skin
  • Use products containing .5% permethrin only on clothing and gear. Permethrin should not be used on the body.

Symptoms of a tickborne illness may include fever, chills, muscle aches, vomiting, fatigue, skin rash and painful swelling of lymph nodes near the bite.

Health experts say symptoms usually occur three to 14 days after a tick bite.

However, officials say most of the diseases can be treated successfully with antibiotics if they are caught early.

Health officials say Oklahomans are at the highest risk of tickborne illnesses from May to August.

Experts say you should also check with a veterinarian about tick control for pets since cats and dogs can also get tickborne illnesses.