Spring is finally in full swing here in Northeast Pennsylvania. The temperatures are rising, the birds are singing and the grass is growing. I don’t know about you, but I’m loving every invigorating minute of it.

If you’re like me, you want to take full advantage of the great weather and get outside for all manner of fun pursuits, be it hiking, biking, gardening or golf. Of course, it’s not all fun and games, as the great outdoors contain their share of threats, not the least of which are those pesky little insects with an uncanny knack for attaching themselves to humans and pets alike.

Yes, tick season has returned to NEPA, and we need to be vigilant from now through the end of the warm weather months of these troublesome pests, which live in grassy, woodsy areas and can wreak havoc on the body in a number of ways.

The most common tickborne illness is Lyme disease, which in the Northeast is transmitted by the blacklegged tick. Symptoms usually include fever, headache, fatigue and skin rash. The infection can damage the joints, the heart or the nervous system if left untreated. Luckily, most cases can be treated with antibiotics, so it’s important to consult your physician.

While Lyme disease is the most well-known illness caused by a tick bite, it’s hardly the only one. Here are a few others worth your attention:

• Anaplasmosis: Spread primarily by blacklegged and western blacklegged ticks, anaplasmosis can lead to fever, headache, chills and muscle aches. In some cases, people contract the disease if a tick has been on their skin for more than 10 hours. It’s commonly treated with the drug Doxycycline.

• Powassan Virus: Often spread by deer ticks, this virus can cause severe disease, including encephalitis or meningitis. Symptoms can include fever, headache, vomiting and weakness, and treatment comes via rest, fluids and symptomatic treatments and medications.

• Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever: This bacterial disease is transmitted by the Rocky Mountain wood tick, American dog tick and brown dog tick. Most people who get it experience fever, headache and rash, but it can be deadly if not treated early, as it was recently for a child from the State College area. Treat with Doxycycline.

• Babesiosis: Caused by microscopic parasites that infect red blood cells and are transmitted by the blacklegged tick, babesiosis can lead to anemia and blood clots if not properly treated.

So, given all these potential tickborne scourges and more, how can we best protect ourselves so we don’t end up sick or in the hospital? Well, there are plenty of ways to be proactive in the fight against ticks. Here are a few:

• Use Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD) or 2-undecanone.

• Steer clear of wooded, bushy, high-grass areas; if hiking or biking, stick to the trail.

• When finished with your outdoor activity, check your clothing and bare skin for ticks — and check your pets, too.

• Once back home, conduct a full-body check for ticks, paying close attention to the area under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, the back of the knees, in and around the hair, between the legs and around the waist.

• Shower within two hours of coming indoors, as it can wash away unnoticed ticks, some the size of poppy seeds and has been shown to reduce your risk of contracting tickborne diseases.

And if you do find a tick on your body, be sure to monitor yourself for any potential symptoms. There’s also a local place where you can have your ticks examined – the Tick Research Lab of Pennsylvania at East Stroudsburg University. For more information on the lab, visit ticklab.org.

A little knowledge goes a long way when it comes to ticks. So be mindful of them during the next several months — but don’t let them ruin your outdoor fun!

William Dempsey, M.D., is deputy chief medical officer for The Wright Center for Community Health. He provides comprehensive primary care services as a family medicine physician and serves as medical director at The Wright Center for Community Health Clarks Summit Practice. He is also medication-assisted treatment-waivered to treat substance use disorder.