Thursday, May 11, 2006
Wood ticks, plentiful in summer, can carry disease

By Dr. Anthony Policastro
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital,
Medical director

Summer is a time for being outside. That carries with it a variety of risks. One of those risks is a disease that is carried by ticks. Ticks are common in this area. One of the ticks that we see commonly is the dog tick. It is also known as the wood tick. These ticks are relatively large. They are often 1/4 inch in length. The dog tick can carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. It got its name because that is the location where the disease was first discovered. However, the disease is much more common along the Atlantic Coastal areas. The time frame for it is in the summer months. That is when people go into wooded areas. That is when ticks are more plentiful. In years with a mild winter, ticks survive better. We had a mild winter this year. That would mean we could expect to see more ticks. As its name would suggest this disease often has a high fever. The fever frequently reaches 103 to 104 degrees. It also has a rash associated with it. The rash frequently begins on the palms and soles. The rash is reddish colored. The rash does not consist of blisters. A viral condition called hand, foot and mouth disease causes blisters on the palms and soles. It also occurs during the summer. As its name suggests, it also has blisters in the mouth. It is a minor illness. Thus, just having a rash on the palms and soles does not necessarily mean Rocky Mountain Spotter Fever. The third symptom is bad headache. The headache is often the most severe headache the patient has ever had. When a patient shows up with a bad headache, fever and rash after a tick bite, the diagnosis is easy. However, many patients do not always have the history of tick bite. Some do not have the rash when they first come in. There are a lot of things that can cause headache and fever. For that reason, the diagnosis is not that easy in these situations. The good news is that Rocky Mountain Spotter Fever can be treated successfully with antibiotics. The bad news is that if the treatment is not started early, it can be a serious illness. Not every one with a tick bite develops the illness. The tick has to be one that carries the illness. It must be attached long enough to transmit the illness. Therefore, there is no reason to use antibiotics for every tick bite. There is a need to start them when the symptoms occur. Wood ticks can cause local infections as well. They can cause an inflammation at the site of the attachment. Some times a tick can be hidden in a child's scalp. The only clue might be swollen glands at the back of the child's neck. There are multiple ways suggested of removing ticks. However, the one recommended by most experts is use of a tweezers. The tick is grabbed as close to the head as possible. Then, gentle pulling of the tick with the tweezers will usually result in removal. You might want to add a set of tweezers to your medicine cabinet if you do not yet have one. Tick repellents only work when used frequently. If you use them that frequently, you can have side effects from the repellent. Therefore, looking carefully at the skin after going through a wooded area is the best advice. We may spend more time outside during the summer. But so do the ticks.

Author to speak at Health Day
Nanticoke's Women's Health Day will be Saturday, May 13, at Laurel High School from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Stephanie Marston, author of "Chicken Soup for the Soul, Life Lessons for Women," will be the featured speaker. Other sessions on women's health issues and free screenings will be available. Lunch is provided and admission is free of charge. For details and reservations, call 629-6611, ext. 2401.

Classes set for cancer patients
The Wellness Community-Delaware is part of a national nonprofit organization that provides support, education and hope to people with cancer and their loved ones. The Sussex County facility is located at 19633 Blue Bird Lane, Suite 5, Rehoboth Beach. Today, May 11, the organization is holding a Tai'Chi class at noon. A participant support group will be held at 1 p.m. On Monday, May 15, the organization will hold a "Look Good... Feel Better" class from 1 to 3 p.m. In addition, it will sponsor a class in yoga at 8:30 a.m. at the Silver Lotus Yoga Center, Bethany Beach. All programs are free of charge. For details or to register call Kaye or Lori at 227-1155. More information about The Wellness Community is available on the Web site at