6 Things You Need to Know About Malaria, Just in Case

A “Long-Term-Disaster Diseases” post. See the rest in the series here. by James Hubbard, MD, MPH Normal red blood cells have light centers. The blue ones have been infested with malaria parasites. Today, April 25, is World Malaria Day. When my father was a boy in Mississippi, he had malaria. Millions of others did also in the American South in the 1930s. After a few days of the typical fever, teeth-chattering chills, and drenching sweats he got over it. Many did. But many others died. Millions still do—some here in the United States. We don’t yet have a vaccine for malaria, but we do have effective drugs. Even so, during a long-term disaster, those drugs may not be available. So here are some important facts to know. What Is Malaria? […]

By | April 25th, 2014|Infectious Disease|9 Comments

Spring Survival Quiz, Part II: Bites and Stings

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH We humans are not the only ones who become more active in the spring. This second of my two-part, true/false quiz on surviving the spring is all about bites and stings. The answers are quotes from past posts. It has been said that repetition is the mother of all learning, so why not go back and read the linked posts to refresh your memory.   […]

By | April 9th, 2013|Critters|3 Comments

6 Home Remedies for Fire Ant Bites

If you disturb fire ants, they don’t mess around. They attack. Technically they bite and sting. When they bite, they clamp to your skin with their two strong pincers. Because of this it takes a lot of vigorous brushing to get them off. After biting, they sting by swinging their tail to and fro. One biting fire ant can sting you six to eight times. by James Hubbard, MD, MPH Having grown up in the South, I’ve been bitten enough times by fire ants to pretty well know what’s going on before I see them. I know when I feel that distinctive sting (it’s like being touched with a hot match head … for a long time), I’m going to find a lot of creepy, crawling dots. […]

By | April 2nd, 2013|Critters|150 Comments

How to Identify a Spider by Its Bite

A black widow spider, with its tell-tale red hourglass. If you feel pain when the spider bites, this is likely the culprit. by James Hubbard, MD, MPH I’ve seen a lot of spider bites in my day, and more often than not, the spider is never seen. Over the years I’ve developed several tricks for how to identify the spider by the bite. There are three types of poisonous spiders in the U.S. The brown recluse is found in the southern two-thirds of the country. It likes to hide in boxes so I often wonder if it doesn’t catch an occasional ride by freight. The hobo spider likes it out west. The black widow has been found in every state but Alaska. Here are my tips on how to identify a spider bite. […]

By | September 25th, 2012|Critters|332 Comments

When the Bugs Aren’t Real

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. I never heard of this in medical school, so when I saw my first patient with delusional parasitosis, I was quite bewildered. Here sat a well-dressed, anxious looking guy, scratching all over, who said he scabies and handed me the proof in a tissue. It was a flake of skin. “And look, Doc. See the bites.” I looked and saw where he’d been scratching—digging and clawing actually—into his skin. But no bugs of any sort. […]

By | August 23rd, 2012|Critters|57 Comments

Is It Really Scabies? Felt-Tip Markers and Other Diagnostic Tricks

Is it a scabies rash? by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. The seven-year itch they used to call it, and if you’ve ever had it, you know the scabies rash itches like crazy—even worse at night. As with head lice, I see more scabies cases when school starts back. It can also become a problem for shelters, nursing homes, even hospitals. Like head lice, the scabies mite feeds on the human body and likes to jump ship, so to speak, when people are in close contact. But, in my opinion, tiny scabies mites aren’t as simple to diagnose as the bigger bugs. […]

By | August 21st, 2012|Critters, Infectious Disease, Rashes, Skin|124 Comments

Why Mosquitoes Don’t Like Rain. 6 West Nile Myths, Busted.

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. I heard on the radio that this summer is going to be a bad one for West Nile virus. They were talking about how many cases some areas have had and how many people have died. USA Today reports 693 cases and twenty-eight deaths scattered through thirty-two states. Last week alone there were 390 cases and eight deaths. And it’s only going to get worse. For some reason West Nile is usually worst in mid-August through mid-September. It got me to thinking, if it’s this bad now, how much worse it would be during a disaster. We’d probably be outside more, maybe have holes in the inside walls, probably have more mosquitoes due to stagnant water. Could it be one disaster on top of another? And, for this year, should you and your kids stay inside? Well, hold on answering until you read my list of myths below. […]

By | August 16th, 2012|Critters, Infectious Disease|19 Comments

How to Check for Head Lice. Step 1: Brace Yourself.

A nit (egg). Those red spots are eyes. When you check for head lice, the nits look like white dandruff, but they don’t brush off easily. by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. It’s back-to-school time. And soon afterwards, a young child’s rite of passage—the note from the teacher stating your little darling has head lice. I can hear the collective “but we’re not a nasty family” now. For the umpteenth time, no one—not the teacher nor the principle nor the doctor—thinks you are. It’s not a question of cleanliness. […]

By | August 14th, 2012|Children, Critters, Infectious Disease|48 Comments

Why You Could Die of a Bee Sting–Even If You’ve Never Been Allergic

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. On my Facebook page, Terri asks: What can be done if the person has a allergic reaction to a [bee] sting. What are the signs? What should I do if there is no bee sting medicine? medical facility. Good questions. First you need to know, there are bee-sting reactions and there are REACTIONS. The second kind can hit ANYONE and kill you in minutes. I’m not exaggerating. You can go all your life and not be allergic to bee stings, and wham. It’s speculated that many outdoor sudden deaths where the cause is unknown happen from an allergic reaction to a bee sting. Recognizing the warning signs can save your life. When to Get to the ER Generally, a local reaction—anything from a minor ouch to a major swelling of the affected extremity—isn’t immediately life-threatening. Any reaction beyond that, and you should get to a medical facility immediately. In fact, you should go soon if you have major swelling. It can be treated with antihistamines and steroids, or antibiotics if it’s an infection. But it’s not the kind of reaction that’s going to kill you in minutes. The lethal kind can hit within a minute or up to two hours from the time of the sting. Your blood pressure can drop, and your airways may swell. You can go into shock and die. Warning signs are: […]

Tips to Tell You If a Tick’s Made You Sick (Even If You Haven’t Seen One)

About 80 percent of people with Lyme disease from a tick bite develop a target lesion, or bull’s-eye rash. It’s not always so visually well-defined. by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. Where I come from, it’s tick season. I suspect it is in your area too. On many a tree leaf or tall grass, the tiny blood-suckers lie in wait—ready to pounce on any warm-blooded creature that gets within distance—eager to share their multiple array of germs. The CDC lists twelve tick-borne diseases in the U.S. alone. Early recognition and treatment is vital to prevent permanent disability, even death. But these diseases can be hard to diagnose. Symptoms can be very general—say, fever and muscle aches—and their onset can be delayed for days or weeks. Tick-borne diseases can be hard for a doctor to pen down. So what if no doctor is available? Here are a few steps you can take to decrease your chance of a devastating outcome. […]

By | April 24th, 2012|Critters, Rashes, Skin|68 Comments