Tick season is here: How to avoid them

SAN DIEGO — County health officials Friday issued tips for residents to avoid tick bites, noting that tick season has begun in the region.

While tick-borne illnesses are rare in San Diego County’s urban and suburban areas, people who spend time in the backcountry or in canyons may encounter the blood-sucking arachnids.

Ticks feed on the blood of mammals. They can spread illnesses such as Lyme disease, which can cause neurological symptoms, tularemia — also known as rabbit fever — and spotted fever,

The best ways to avoid ticks are:

— wearing insect repellent approved by the Environmental Protection Agency that contains DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, or 2 undecanone;

— staying on designated pathways while hiking or walking;

— avoiding grass and brush;

— not handling rodents;

— Frequently checking your clothing, body and hiking companions for ticks;

— leaving pets at home or keep them on-leash; and

— immediately removing a tick if one bites.