Ticks are abundant in Oklahoma and commonly feed on humans and other animals. Ticks live in wooded, grassy, brushy areas and may live on animals. Outdoor activities such as camping, hunting, gardening, or hiking brings ticks and people in close contact.
Although only a small percentage of these ticks are infected with disease-causing bacteria, numerous tickborne illnesses including, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichiosis, and Tularemia, are reported each year. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Ehrlichiosis are most common tickborne diseases reported in Oklahoma. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is mostly associated with the American Dog Tick, and Ehrlichiosis is most commonly associated with the Lone Star Tick.
The Tulsa Health Department's Environmental Health Services and Epidemiology programs provide disease education and tick bite prevention and referrals for testing.
Preventing tick bites
- Use products approved by the Environmental Protection Agency containing picaridin, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, DEET or other EPA approved product
- Use products containing 0.5% permethrin to treat clothing, boots and camping gear. Permethrin-treated clothing and gear is also available for purchase from retailers.
- Avoid contact with ticks by walking in the center of park and hiking trails and avoid brushy and wooded areas.
- Preventing ticks around the home:
- Pesticides can reduce ticks in your yard. Always follow label instructions and local laws or ordinances when using a pesticide.
- Other ways of reducing ticks in yards include the following:
- Remove leaf litter
- Cut tall grasses and brush
- Use wood chips or gravel to place a 3 foot wide barrier between the yard and wooded areas
- Mow frequently
- Stack wood neatly to discourage rodents
- Discourage local wildlife from entering the yard
- Remove any trash, junk, or debris from property
Returning home from outdoor activities
Check clothing for ticks. Ticks latch on to clothing and are sometimes difficult to detect. Remove any ticks found and tumble dry clothes on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on clothing. Wet clothes may require a longer period. Use hot water if for any clothes requiring washing first. Lower temperatures will not kill ticks. Bath or shower after being outdoors. Shower within two hours to reduced risk of tickborne diseases. Showering may wash off unattached ticks. Examine pets and people and complete a full body check after exposure to areas that harbor ticks.
Check the following parts of the body:
- Under arms
- Around ears
- Inside belly button
- In and around hair
- Between the legs
- Around the waist
What to do when a tick bites
Ticks should be removed as soon as possible. Tweezers work very well to remove ticks. If preferred, tick removal devices may also be purchased from local stores. Make a note of when the bite occurred.
How to remove a tick:
- Use clean tweezers to grab the tick as closely to the skin surface as possible
- Use even pressure and pull straight upward. Be careful not to jerk or twist the tick. These actions can cause mouth parts to break off and remain attached to the skin.
- Clean the bite area with rubbing alcohol or soap and water once the tick is removed.
- Do not crush live ticks with your fingers. Use one of the following options to dispose of a tick:
- Place tick in alcohol
- Place in a sealed bag/container
- Wrap with tape
- Flush down the toilet
- If a fever or rash develops after removing a tick, see your doctor.
American Dog tick
- Transmits: Tularemia and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
- Comments: Highest bite risk during spring and summer. Dogs ticks are also referred to as wood ticks.
- Transmits: Lyme Disease, Anaplasmosis, Borrelia Miyamotoi, Ehrlichiosis, Babesiosis, Powassan Virus
- Comments: Highest bite risk during spring, summer, and fall. Adults are known to quest for hosts during the winter when temperatures are above freezing.
Brown dog tick
- Transmits: Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
- Comments: Dogs are the primary host for the brown dog tick, however, the tick may bite humans or other mammals if in close contact.
Gulf Coast tick
- Transmits: Rickettsia parkeri rickettsiosis
- Comments: Adults feed on deer and other wildlife. Larvae and nymphs are found on birds and small rodents.
Lone star tick
- Transmits: STARI, Tularemia, Heartland and Bourbon Virus, Ehrlichiosis
- Comments: This tick is aggressive and readily bites humans. A mature female has a white dot on the back. Nymphs and adult females transmit disease to humans.