Social distancing is leading people to spend a lot more time outside.

While it may be helpful in the fight against COVID-19, spending more time outdoors this time of year also increases the risk of tick borne-illnesses.

A mild winter is leading to what could be a summer full of ticks, and with these pests comes the potential danger of Lyme disease.

"This is the tick season. We're all looking in the medical field and just in our personal lives for ticks and tick-borne illnesses," said Dr. Luther Rhodes, an infectious disease specialist at Lehigh Valley Health Network.

But this year, doctors say recognizing Lyme symptoms is a bit trickier, as we continue to also be on the lookout for signs of COVID-19.

"How do you know if you have symptoms, if it's due to Lyme disease or COVID? It's actually a good question because they have similarities," said Dr. Rhodes.

While coronavirus is a virus and Lyme disease is a bacterial infection, both can cause fatigue and body aches. But there is a key difference.

"Respiratory symptoms...cough, shortness of breath, would be very uncommon for Lyme disease and very common in COVID," said Dr. Rhodes.

As the pandemic drives us to spend more time outdoors, experts say we have to take precautions against not only COVID-19 but tick-borne illnesses as well.

"The best thing is to go outside with the mindset of preventing tick encounters to begin with," said Susan Gallagher, chief naturalist at the Carbon County Environmental Education Center.

Experts say there's a chance of finding ticks whenever you go outside, but you're more likely to come in contact with them when you're around tall grass and high brushy areas.

"Ticks generally don't bite right away as soon as they get on your body. They usually crawl around for a little while until they find the right spot," said Gallagher.

Many times that "right spot" is one where you might not think to look, like under your arms or behind your ears.

"Getting home and doing a tick check is the most important thing. Some of these little guys are the size of a poppy seed. They're really hard to see but if you get used to doing regular tick checks on your body you get to know what they're supposed to look like," said Gallagher.

If you're outside, other ways to lessen your chance of tick and mosquito bites include wearing light-colored clothing, long sleeves, and tucking your pants into your socks. Using insect or tick repellents on your skin and clothes is also recommended.