Your health
Can you catch a cold from being cold?

By John McElligott, M.D.

As a trucking doc, I treat a lot of issues. Skin infections, irritations and causes of allergic reactions that manifest on your skin are high on the "List of Common Trucker Ailments." That's really no surprise. What is the largest organ in the body? It's your skin.

I was talking to some other truckers recently about those "kissing bugs" that have been in the news lately, and one guy said the kissing bug causes mononucleosis. Is that true?

Let me be absolutely clear: The kissing bug does not cause mono. Mononucleosis is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, or EBV.

The kissing bug (its real name is a triatomine bug) carries a parasite in its saliva. That parasite causes what they call Chagas disease. It's characterized by itching, swelling, hives, severe redness or even anaphylactic shock.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has an excellent site on this bug and pictures to help separate the kissing bug from other bugs that resemble the kissing bug. The kissing bug feeds on the blood from mammals. The bug has made the news lately, because it is mostly found in areas like Mexico and South America but is now being found in southern and southwestern states in the U.S. In fact, a CDC map shows the whole lower half of the nation.

I have never had a report of the kissing bug bite in any of my trucking patients. But many drivers live in rural areas in the southern U.S., and many have pets (and pet beds) in their trucks, so be on the alert. Good hygiene and a clean sleeper berth is always a good idea to prevent many issues, including a kiss from the kissing bug.

When is a bump not just a bump? I had this weird spot crop up on my skin under my watchband. It wasn't that big and didn't hurt. But it kept growing and getting warmer. Turns out I had a skin infection that could have entered my blood. How do I know when to seek medical attention for a weird bump or spot on my skin?

This infection could be from the watchband or possibly from another source. Placed around the wrist, a watchband could cause friction and abrade the skin, allowing pathogenic bacteria to enter below the epidermis and cause infection. The only scientific way to tell would be to culture the wound and the watchband and match up the bacteria.

I recently read something like this on Facebook that involved an elastic hair tie. Did the bacterial pathogen come from the hair tie or was it due to another contact or just poor hygiene? Was this a coincidental infection?

Without further investigation, I don't think you can attribute all of the cause to the watchband or, in the Facebook case, the hair tie. However, hair ties are for the hair and not the wrist. My daughter puts her tie in her mouth while she is twisting her hair. The mouth has a set of bacteria that is very pathogenic.

Regardless, you were smart to go to the doctor once the bump continued to grow or felt warm to the touch. Both of those are warning signs of infection. And it's always better to catch a skin infection before it gets too big or bad and enters the bloodstream. LL

John McElligott is an MD and Fellow of the American college of Physicians. He is a certified medical examiner with the FMCSA's NRCME. This column is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Land Line Magazine or its publisher. Everyone's health situation is different. If you have questions regarding medical issues, consult your personal physician.