Now that tick season is here, it's time to start wearing protective clothing when hiking in the woods. Ticks seem to favor legs, so it's a good idea to tuck pants into socks and to protect skin by wearing long shirts and hats.

If a tick is discovered, doctors recommend pulling it very slowly with a tweezers or with fingers covered with tissue paper until it lets go and comes out on its own.

Note the date the tick is removed. The following symptoms should help distinguish Rocky Mountain spotted fever from the less well known Lyme disease. Both are most prevalent along the eastern seaboard from May through October. Rocky Mountain spotted fever is caused by the Rickettsia, a microorganism carried by a wood tick. This tick is much larger than the deer tick, which carries the spirochete bacteria of Lyme disease. The incubation period is three to 14 days for spotted fever and three to 32 days for Lyme disease. Rocky Mountain spotted fever is characterized by a sudden, unrelenting and quickly escalating fever and headache and a rash that usually starts on the wrists and ankles. The victims are seriously ill within a few days with symptoms that do not go away by themselves, and the victims frequently require hospitalization.

In contrast, the fever and aches associated with Lyme disease will wax and wane, and the circular rash will go away without treatment. If arthritis begins, it usually starts six to eight months after the tick bite, often in the knee joints.

Patients should be watched for neck stiffness, headache and fever as well as complaints about frequent rapid heartbeat.Spotted fever can be successfully treated with antibiotics. It should be treated early. Last year, 50 of the 700 people stricken with Rocky Mountain spotted fever died.

Lyme disease is also treated with antibiotics and is easily controllable if caught early. Only one death from Lyme disease has been identified.