We're all spending a lot more time outside now, and certainly have more skin showing. This summer especially, we should all be extra cautious when it comes to our (and our pets') exposure to ticks and other disease-carrying bugs.

Since we had such a mild WNY winter, more ticks were able to survive...and that means a potentially greater threat of tick-borne illnesses like Lyme disease.

It's a real danger for everyone - pets included - and Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein says they're anticipating a greater spread of not only Lyme, but also of other viruses that are born from additional insects and animals, like rabies from raccoons.  The mild temperatures have also meant that wildlife had more time to start reproducing.

Lyme disease, unfortunately, isn't always easy to diagnose, and it's also often MISdiagnosed, due to the wide spectrum of symptoms -- some have them, some don't!

This morning I spoke with my friend Leah, who's beautiful 5-year-old daughter Linlee was just diagnosed earlier this week. (This is Linlee...I'm biased, but seriously, how adorable is this child!?!)

Townsquare Media / Laura Daniels

Two big takeaways from this chat:  one, Linlee did not immediately present with the typical "bullseye" red spot(s)...and two, a tick was never found on Linlee!

Hear what else to look out for, and why it's always best to be your own best health advocate, and to communicate your concerns with your doctor and/or pediatrician!

Besides wearing long-sleeve shirts and tucking pants into socks -- which isn't always ideal in the summer -- experts emphasize the importance of bug spray (I've read that geranium oil also works well as a natural repellent), and a thorough head-to-toe check when coming back indoors (that goes for pets too!).

Here's more from the NYS Department of Health on how to safely remove a tick, as well as other helpful info!

And check out this report from WIVB on the importance of checking pets for ticks and other insects!