TORONTO -- During the pandemic, going for a hike or visiting a conservation area has become a popular pastime.

But, when you do decide to head outdoors, experts warn you should watch out for ticks.

“The risk of Lyme disease is quite prevalent in Ontario and Quebec," according to Dr. Pierre Chuard, project coordinator of with Bishop’s University in Quebec.

In fact, there's been an increase in blacklegged ticks that carry Lyme disease, so it's important to take precautions on the trails and even in your own backyard.

Due to the pandemic, some public health agencies that track ticks have suspended operations, but continues to monitor tick populations and is a good resource for anyone bitten by a tick.

According to Dr. Chuard, if you get a tick bite, remove the tick and take a photo of it and then submit it to the website for more information on what to do next.

“We will give you the resources to check for symptoms and tell you what do to if you start to develop symptoms of tick-borne illnesses" said Dr. Chuard.

As our winters get milder, ticks in some areas are coming out as early as March and April and they are in full force in many regions by May.

Ticks are found in high grass, fields and along hiking trails. According to experts at Consumer Reports, your best defense is to make it difficult for ticks to bite you so if you're in a wooded or grassy area, be sure to dress accordingly.

“You should wear long sleeves and long pants that are tucked into your socks to keep ticks from getting under your clothing. It’s also a good idea to wear light colors so it’s easier to spot any ticks that may be on you,” said Catherine Roberts with Consumer Reports.

Before you leave your house, apply an insect repellent to any exposed skin as well as the outside of your clothing. Repellents that contain 15 to 30 per cent DEET earn top ratings in tests by Consumer Reports.

Products with 30 per cent oil of lemon eucalyptus or 20 per cent picaridin can also be effective. A recommended choice is Off Deep Woods Insect Repellent 8 Dry Formula.

Most importantly, following a hike or walk on the trails or a wooded or grassy area, when you get home hop in the shower and check yourself for ticks.

“Showering can wash away any ticks that may be on your skin but not yet attached, and it’s an opportunity to check your skin for any bites,” said Roberts.

If you're bitten by a tick, don’t panic. Grab a pair of tweezers and carefully remove it. The sooner you remove the tick, the less chance it will have to transmit disease.

You should monitor your health as in some cases you could get a red rash around the bite area, or chills or headaches. If that happens, seek medical attention right away.

You should also check your pets regularly for ticks especially if you take them on walks in wooded or grassy areas. You can also protect them with flea and tick products that have been approved by veterinarians.