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Dr. Dunn: What to do about allergies and tick bites

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By Maren Dunn

What do I do when I get a tick?
Are the ticks around here dan –
gerous? What kind are they?

Spring through early summer in
Montana is prime time for tick
bites. Ticks can’t fly or jump, so
instead they crawl slowly and
usually find their target when
an animal or human rubs against
vegetation where they lie waiting.
The most common tick in Montana
is the Rocky Mountain Wood Tick.

This tick, if infected with the right
microorganism, can be responsible
for the following illnesses: Rocky
Mountain Spotted Fever, Colorado
Tick Fever and Tularemia. It’s
important to note that the deer tick,
which causes Lyme Disease, is not
found in Montana.

In the event you find a tick, you
should use tweezers or covered
fingers to remove it with a gentle
pulling motion, being careful to
pull out all of the mouth parts. Sci –
entists recommend putting the tick
in a zipper bag or jar for later identification
should you become sick.

Clean the area well with antiseptic
and wash your hands.

Symptoms of illness usually present
within 3-14 days after a bite.
If you come down with a fever,
general malaise, deep muscle pain,
headache, inflamed eyes or rash,
you should see your doctor ASAP.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
causes the above symptoms, with
the rash developing on the palms
and soles of the feet. Colorado Tick
Fever causes the same symptoms,
which tend to be worse in older
individuals. Tularemia manifests
as a decaying sore where the tick
initially bit, along with fever and
swollen tender lymph nodes. Both
RMSF and Tularemia are treated
with antibiotics and can worsen
into life threatening illnesses if not
treated promptly.

My allergies are acting up. What
do you recommend for treatment
that won’t make me drowsy?

With the trees blooming and grass
greening, spring allergy season is
in high gear. Common symptoms
include nasal discharge and itching,
fatigue, sneezing, eye itching
and watering. For some people,
symptoms are severe enough to
interfere with their quality of life
and productivity at work. Luckily,
there are multiple ways to treat the

First line treatment: Avoid the
allergen. This can be next to impos –
sible when pollen is the culprit! If
nasal symptoms dominate, prescription
glucocorticoid nasal sprays
(GNS) have shown the best effect.

Over-the-counter oral antihistamines
(AH) have shown good
effects on all symptoms, but less
effect on nasal symptoms than the
GNS. First generation AH, such as
diphenhydramine (brand name is
Benadryl) have the side effect of
sleepiness or dry mouth. In fact,
diphenhydramine is often the active
ingredient in over-the-counter
sleep aids. Second generation AH,
like loratadine or cetirizine (Clari –
tin or Zyrtec) have less sedation and
require only one dose in 24 hours.

For those of you with allergy symp –
toms who need a decongestant, the
second generation AH do come in
combination with pseudophedrine.
Watch out for side effects, however.

These can include high blood pres –
sure, irritability or insomnia.
If these remedies are not sufficient
either alone or in combination,
your doctor can recommend other
treatments with medications like
Singulair (which also helps with
asthma) or AH nasal sprays. In cases
where symptoms persist no matter
what the treatment, there is the
option of glucocorticoid injection.

It’s always important to check with
your doctor if you have other medi –
cal conditions, or if the sufferer is
a child.

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