Depending on what part of the country you live in, it can be tick season all year long, even in colder months. A common myth is that ticks die in winter. They don’t unless the temperature is well below zero. And even then, only a small percentage may die. If you enjoy the outdoors every season, you must be able to differentiate between ticks and how to react if bitten. You may think they die in colder months because they are less active.
Rather than dying, though, they have gone dormant. When the temperatures rise again, they will become active. Two of the most common ticks are the wood tick, also called the American dog tick, and the deer tick, also called the black-legged tick. A wood tick vs deer tick present many differences, and it’s important to distinguish between them.
Wood Tick vs Deer Tick Similarities
Ticks are in the spider family and vary in size, color, and the diseases they transmit. Wood and deer ticks develop in stages, including larvae, nymphs, and adults. In each location, a tick must feed on warm blood to survive. If they provide on an animal infected with bacteria, it will transfer to the tick, making them carriers of disease.
In the larvae and nymph stages, ticks latch onto smaller animals, such as cats, small dogs, moles, rabbits, raccoons, and birds. Any bacteria in the blood of these animals will be passed on to the ticks. This means they have two opportunities to contract bacteria and diseases before adulthood. Adults like large dogs, deer, elk, bears, and humans need more prominent feeding sources.
Ticks do not jump, fly, or drop from trees. They live in tall grass or brushy areas on the ground. They wait until you or an animal pass by to latch on. Once on your body, they crawl, searching for the perfect place to feed. When they are ready, they begin embedding themselves under your skin until they reach a source of blood. When they feed on the blood, they transfer bacteria.
Wood Tick vs Deer Tick Differences
Knowing the differences between wood and deer ticks can help you reduce the chances of being bitten. You will also know what to do if you find a tick on your body or are bitten.
- Wood ticks are most often found in tall, dry grasses, but deer ticks like areas with more moisture. Most wood ticks are located east of the Rocky Mountains.
- Deer ticks have been identified in every state except Hawaii, but there are many more reports in the Eastern United States.
- American dog ticks are typically found in the Eastern states, primarily east of the Rocky Mountains and on the California coastline.
Wood and deer ticks are eight-legged insects with hard shields. Wood ticks are reddish-brown with white protection, and deer ticks are reddish-orange with black guards. Wood ticks can vary between 1/8” and 1/2”, depending on if they are filled with blood. Deer ticks range in size from a nymph being the size of a poppy seed and an adult to the size of a sesame seed.
All ticks can carry bacteria that can lead to infections that may lead to disease. Deer ticks are most known for transmitting the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, which affects hundreds of thousands of people in America. Borrelia burgdorferi is the bacterium associated with Lyme disease.
Unfortunately, deer ticks often carry more than one type of bacterium. This means it can transmit more than one into your bloodstream. Lyme disease can appear with co-infections, including babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, and the Powassan virus.
Wood ticks can carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) and tularemia. RMSF is one of the deadliest tick-borne diseases if it is not treated early, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Symptoms of Tick-Borne Diseases
Rashes are signs of Lyme disease and RMSF. However, when and how they appear are very different. A Lyme disease rash usually seems early and looks like a bullseye. RMSF rashes appear in later stages and look like splotches. Other symptoms of Lyme disease and RMSF include:
- Muscle aches
If left untreated, additional symptoms may appear, including:
- Stiff neck
- Facial paralysis
- Severe fatigue
- Cognitive deficiencies
- Nervous system problems
With RMSF, untreated symptoms may include:
- Nerve damage
- Gangrene in your toes or fingers
- Partial paralysis
- Hearing loss
Treatments for Tick-Borne Diseases
The sooner you receive treatment after being bitten by a wood or deer tick, the better. Antibiotics are usually the first line of treatment. When administered early, most people overcome the infection. Doxycycline is often the antibiotic of choice. Several things can happen that lead to your tick-borne disease going untreated.
Your doctor may misdiagnose your symptoms for another illness, you may receive a false-negative test result, or you may not seek treatment right away if your symptoms aren’t severe. The longer symptoms go untreated, the worse they become. Seeking help from a Lyme-literate doctor is recommended due to their access to advanced, alternative treatments that work. Examples include:
- Therapeutic apheresis
- Biofilm eradication
- Intravenous antibiotic infusions
- Anti-viral protocols
Combined with pain management, you will feel improvements in a short period.
Lyme Disease Prevention Tips
When it comes to wood tick vs deer tick prevention protocol differences, the goal and message are the same: avoid contact altogether. And when you can’t avoid them, protect yourself. You can do this by wearing clothing that covers your legs and arms, spraying your clothing with repellants, checking for ticks, and showering.
And don’t forget your pets. Follow the same prevention tips for animals. Not only can they get tick-borne diseases, but they can also bring the tick inside your home, putting you at risk of being bitten. Taking simple prevention measures means enjoying the outdoors without the fear of ticks.