By Dawn Watson
Contrary to popular opinion, the end of summer is not the end of tick season.
Fall is actually prime time for the crawling critters, which means that even though summer is over, the danger of contracting Lyme disease is not. In fact, autumn is the time of year that adult deer ticks begin their feeding activity. And they will latch on to just about any larger, warm-blooded host that they come in contact with, including squirrels, ducks, birds, deer, humans and pets, says East End Tick & Mosquito Control owner Brian Kelly.
“They are still active and in search of a blood meal into mid-November,” he warns. And since adult ticks are able to detect the carbon dioxide being released from warm-blooded animals and humans, it’s critical that we take preventative measures to protect ourselves.
Right now, the Southampton-based tick expert is busier than ever, applying one last pet-friendly permethrin-based spray to the lawns of his clients. Coating the ground now will set the stage for the spring, he reports, as the adult Lone Star and deer ticks are laying eggs in the tall grass and underneath leaf litter, which will hatch once the weather gets warm again.
Ticks, he says, will hibernate once the temperature gets below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. They will dig into the ground or find places to hide in piles of leaves, so it’s prudent to be proactive even now before heading outside. Mr. Kelly, who is on the board of the Suffolk County Tick Task Force, recommends keeping the grass cut low, trees trimmed and the leaves raked, through the first snow.
Ticks lurk in places other than lawns, he adds. They might also be lying in wait in shrubs, brush and even beach grass. To keep safe, he advises giving shoes spray with tick repellent every time before venturing into nature.
“Ticks crawl, and they always work their way up,” says Mr. Kelly. “So if you spray your shoes, you are 70 percent less like to get bitten by a tick.”
But even after first frost, the East End is still not out of the woods yet with regard to Lyme disease, according to Mr. Kelly, whose Department of Environmental Conservation-approved business has been operating on the East End since 1997. Not only can ticks live through a mild winter, they can emerge on any suddenly warm day—even if it happens in January or February.
“The will come crawling back out again,” he warns.
As long as the Lyme epidemic continues, there’s no way to be 100-percent safe, adds Mr. Kelly, who reports that the Center for Disease Control has released statistics stating that Lyme disease has been identified in 182 counties in the United States. But being smart and taking precautions will greatly reduce one’s chances of contracting the debilitating disease. To that end, he’s set out to educate as many East Enders as he can reach.
East End Tick & Mosquito Control has partnered with the Southampton Hospital’s Tick-Borne Disease Resource Center in putting together free Tick Kits, which contain helpful information, a Tick ID Card, tweezers, a magnifier and first-aid supplies. The business owner has also been visiting local schools to educate children on tick-borne disease prevention.
Mr. Kelly’s biggest piece of advice for those who encounter a tick; remove it at the head, by its mouth, as close to your skin as possible, he says. Pull it out with tweezers. Do not squeeze, burn or coat the tick in anything, as this will increase your chances of Lyme exposure. Once it’s removed, feel free to bring it in to him for free identification.
“If you find a tick, put it in a bag or vial and bring it in,” he says. “I’m not a doctor but I can take a look and usually tell you whether or not you should seek treatment.”
Learn more about East End Tick & Mosquito Control at http://tickcontrol.com.
How to Remove a Tick — from the Tick ID Card, now available at Southampton Hospital, compliments of East End Tick & Mosquito Control
If you find a tick embedded on your body, gently pull it out with thin tweezers by placing them as close to the skin as possible. Try to grab the tick’s head or just above it. If the tick breaks, don’t be alarmed as disease transmission isn’t possible without the tick’s whole body. Disinfect the wound with rubbing alcohol or soap and water. If you experience a rash, aches, fever or flu-like symptoms, see a physician right away. You might want to save the tick in a pill bottle to show to your doctor.