The deer tick, commonly referred to as black-legged tick- or scientifically as Ixodes scapularus (dammini) - is an arachnid that’s well known for feeding on the white tail deer. Not only that, it tends to feed on other mammals, including human beings (where it might cause the Lyme disease).
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That sounds scary, right?
Now, most hunters don’t have an idea what this tick looks like. Some even confuse it with the brown dog tick. If you’re one of these hunters, I’m going to enlighten you on everything you need to know about the bloodsucker in this post.
I want to make everything easy for you to understand, so I’ll divide the post along the following subheadings:
What does a deer tick look like?
Let’s start with (probably) one of the most searched questions on the web- how exactly does the deer tick look like?
You might have seen this parasite, or you might never have seen it in your life. See if the following description sounds familiar to you:
Similar to other species of ticks, deer tick has a flattened body and possesses a total of 8 legs (for the adults as well as nymphs). Only the larval stage has 6 legs.
An unfed female tick measures 3-5mm long and are usually colored brown and red. On the contrary, a well fed- engorged with a meal of blood- tick looks darker and measures around 10mm long. The color changes are as a result of feeding.
It’s also important to note that the males appear smaller than the females and have an even brown color.
And oh! Keep in mind that a deer tick doesn’t fly, hop, jump or swim; it just crawls.
What does a deer tick bite look like?
Why would you even bother to know a deer tick bite looks like? Because if it goes unnoticed, it can inject disease causing microbes into your body (as we’ll see later in this post). Being able to identify a tick means you can take the appropriate action in time and prevent the disease from advancing into later stages.
The fact that you might not feel the tick biting at all makes it even more tricky to know you’ve been bitten until you start getting infection symptoms (yes, the bites are virtually painless).
A typical deer tick bite appears as a red, circular rash (ring-like pattern) that’s a bit raised. But the most distinctive part would be a tiny dot at the center of the path- where the tick actually connects and makes a bite.
That being said, it’s important to note that these ticks usually bite the legs in case of adults and above the wait for kids.
So, what action should you take immediately you realize a deer tick bite on your skin?
I’d highly advise you to visit your health provider immediately! They’d be able to carry out various diagnosis on your body- blood tests and examination of the bites are usually done- to establish if you’ve been infected by any diseases and get the right medication in time to stop it from spreading further.
Deer tick and Lyme disease
As I did mention at the beginning of this post, deer tick is notorious for infecting humans with the Lyme disease. They do this whenever they bite and infect you with bacteria known as Borrelia burgdorferi.
First, it’s important to understand that deer ticks do not always have this bacteria. Rather, they get it whenever they feed on an infected animal such as mice or deer…and that means that not all deer ticks that bite you will infect you with Lyme.
That being stated, your risk of contracting this disease depends on how long the tick has been attached to your skin. Typically, the tick must be attached to you for between 24-48 hours for successful transmission of the microbes. For this reason, I’d recommend you to check your body after spending a day outdoors to get rid of any ticks ASAP and reduce the risk of infection.
Early symptoms of Lyme disease include:
Failure to treat the disease on time gives it a chance to spread to other parts of your body and cause even more serious risks like joint, muscle, nervous system, and heart abnormalities.
How to treat Lyme disease:
Of course, you ought to visit your doctor (again, I recommend you to visit him as early as possible) so that he can confirm if indeed you’re suffering from the disease and give you the appropriate treatment.
In addition to your health care provider’s treatment, consider the expert advice given by a professional medical doctor below on how to beat Lyme.
To learn more about Lyme diseases and possible ways of combating them, you’d want to read these two books:
How to remove a deer tick correctly
Let me being with a Word of Caution:
Successful removal of the deer tick from your isn’t as easy as you might think. It usually burrows itself its head into the skin, and if you remove it anyhow, you might leave some part of it inside your body which will cause more trouble.
In other cases, you might accidentally crush the tick when removing and the fluids it releases might result in further contaminations.
The most effective method of removing a deer tick:
You’ll need a pair of fine-tipped tweezers or forceps. Using your tweezers, grab the part of the tick attached to your skin-i.e. grasp the head, not the body. Then gently pull it out, taking care not to twist it. Throw it in the trash.
Wash the bitten area with some soap and warm water. Disinfecting the area with some alcohol is also a brilliant idea.
Measures To Avoid Deer Ticks
So far so good!
We have learned a lot of stuff- both fascinating and scary- about the black-legged tick associated with the whitetail deer.
In this section, allow me to point out some key tip to help minimize the chances of attack by deer ticks (and keep Lyme disease at bay):
- Obviously, the first step would be to create a barrier between your skin and the ticks by covering yourself with clothes like long-sleeved shirts, long pants, wide-brimmed hats, etc.
- Even after covering your entire body, don’t shy from spraying yourself with that tick repellant; spray your ankles, socks, boots, hat, neckline- everything- and no tick will dare drill into your skin.
While still on it, look for repellents that are safe and friendly to humans to avoid any complications.
- In case you get a creepy crawl on your skin and suspect it could be a deer tick, don’t hesitate from checking it out and removing it properly (as I explained earlier on).
- Truth be told, some ticks will always find their way into your skin, even when you take all the necessary measures. So, in case you spot on, remove it ASAP! Remember the faster it stays attached to your skin, the higher the chances of getting Lyme disease
- After an adventurous day outdoors, why don’t you leave out any unwanted cargo that you might have with you?
- Taking a shower right after an outdoor adventure can also help identify and rid of ticks on your body
- Given that these little devils don’t love high humidity and can’t go for long unfed (they can’t survive more than 24 hours), consider tossing your clothes in a dryer before actually throwing them in the hamper or washing machine if you suspect you have the ticks.
- If you have just removed a tick and you’re worried about it infecting you with the deadly Lyme, consulting your doctor is the best way to solve all your worries
If you’re a campers, hiker, or hunter, don’t let this notorious deer tick, and the thought of Lyme disease catching up with you, stop you from enjoying fun times outdoors. Follow my advice on how to keep off these ticks when out there and you’ll always be safe.
And in case the tick gets you, don’t panic. Remove it ASAP and contact your doctor if you suspect any Lyme symptoms.
Remember the earlier the treatment, the better.
Keep safe guys!