How you can stay safe from ticks

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PITTSBURGH —

The Waugamans of Butler County love the great outdoors.

They’re vigilant about checking for ticks, especially since their son Luke contracted Lyme disease through a deer tick as a toddler.

"It was mind-blowing for us growing up in the woods and never having to deal with it and living in town and him getting it there," said Nikki Waugaman.

Last year, there were more than 5,700 cases of Lyme disease in Pennsylvania.

Butler County had the third-highest number of cases with 332.

Armstrong, Indiana and Westmoreland Counties also had case numbers in the triple digits.

"You take those infected ticks, you take our big deer population, which only seems to get larger year to year, you put them all together with people, it’s a concoction that's going to end up in a lot of Lyme disease cases," explained Dr. Andrew Nowalk of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Deer ticks are often found in high-brush and woodsy areas, which we have plenty of here in Western Pennsylvania, so the key to preventing Lyme disease is knowing how to avoid ticks and tick bites."

Nowalk walked Channel 11 through some simple steps.

"First of all checking for ticks, looking on the body and trying to find them and then using appropriate insect repellents. DEET-based repellents," he said.

Lyme disease is treatable, typically with a long course of antibiotics.

Nowalk said children tend to recover more completely than adults.

Cassandra Crater of Butler contracted Lyme disease eight years ago.

"Every once in a while I have to stop at the limit, and I know 'Alright. My joints are really hurting. I have to take a break," she said.

Both she and the Waugmans agree with some prevention you can still enjoy the outdoors.

Veterinarians also remind pet owners to check their animals for ticks as they can also contract Lyme disease and bring infected ticks into the home.

For more information on symptoms, prevention and diagnosis -- CLICK HERE.