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Guard against Lyme disease, other infections as tick population explodes

  • Published Friday, June 20, 2014, at 9:51 p.m.

The National Wildlife Federation says there’s a population explosion of ticks in New Hampshire, where some moose are infested with more than 100,000 of them. And researchers in St. Louis found that a quarter of squirrels carried ticks that transmit Lyme disease.

Black-legged or deer ticks can transmit babesiosis (most cases are in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Wisconsin) and Lyme disease (96 percent of the 30,000 annual cases are in the Northeast and upper Midwest). The dog tick transmits Rocky Mountain spotted fever; 60 percent of around 2,000 reported cases annually happen in North Carolina, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee and Missouri. The Lone Star tick is in the news: An Oklahoma man died of the Heartland virus after being bitten; less-serious cases have been reported in Tennessee and Missouri.

If you develop a rash, fever, headache, joint or muscle pain, or swollen lymph nodes within 30 days of any tick bite, go to your doctor (sooner is better) to KO the disease. But to avoid being bitten:

1. Use DEET-based insect repellant (adult-strength 30 percent; kids 10 percent or less).

2. Wear light-colored clothing with long sleeves, and tuck pants into socks when in grassy/wooded areas.

3. Examine clothes, legs and arms for ticks before entering the house. Then head to the shower; check your whole body. See something? Use a tick-removal kit.

4. Check pets’ fur thoroughly when they re-enter the house, too.

Hard to swallow

Tall tales may be hard to swallow, but they’re a lot easier than the five-at-once swords daredevil Dan Meyer eased down his esophagus in 2005 (they punctured his stomach) or the 30-inch sword he swallowed two years later – while submerged in a tank with 88 sharks and stingrays. But, believe it or not, for many people, swallowing medication is even more challenging.

Young or old, your inability to get a pill down the hatch may happen because you have a strong gag reflex; are dealing with a nerve disorder such as Parkinson’s or stroke-related nerve damage; suffer from a food allergy, dementia, head or neck cancer; have esophageal problems (dysphagia); or severe gastrointestinal reflux disorder (GERD). Or maybe anxiety is making swallowing difficult.

While we don’t recommend Mary Poppins’ solution (a spoonful of sugar) there are, fortunately, effective remedies.

If a disease is making it difficult to swallow your meds, you need the help of specialists. More simple solutions may include: changing the angle of your body, neck or head when you swallow; altering the size or texture of what you are trying to swallow; and practicing mindfulness to ease anxiety and relax your reflexes. To suppress your gag reflex, you can try taking a deep breath before putting the tablet in your mouth. But never break, crush or chew any medication without your doc’s OK. With an OK, putting the meds into a smoothie or getting them in a yummy gummy formulation may help.

Tropical summer smoothie

When Chris Kattan’s “Saturday Night Live” character Mango asked, “Can you say to a rainbow, ‘Hey, stop being a rainbow for a second’? No! Such is Mango!” he was being an ol’ smoothie, touting his magnificence – and rightly so. Mangoes are a super fruit, containing more than 20 vitamins and minerals: One 7-ounce mango contains 96 percent of your daily dose of vitamin C, 32 percent of vitamin A, and 4 g of fiber. And the nutrients in mangoes can help boost your bone health and digestion, lower the risk for colon cancer and help prevent macular degeneration.

But for a real super summer smoothie, try introducing mangoes to mint and papaya.

• Peel (wash first) and dice two mangoes.

• Grab some fresh mint – for its anti-inflammatory powers and wonderful flavor. It contains rosmarinic acid, which helps relieve seasonal allergies. Chop the mint leaves finely so you have at least 2 tablespoons.

• Next, peel and remove seeds from one papaya (wash this first, too); cut the flesh into chunks. This creamy fruit delivers lycopene and folate as well as vitamins A and C. Papaya also contains an enzyme called papain that helps digest proteins, and lowers your chance of feeling tired after a meal.

• Put the ingredients in a blender. You can add 1/2 to 1 cup nonfat, no-sugar-added Greek yogurt (optional); 2 cups ice cubes; 1-2 cups fresh orange juice with pulp. Combine until desired consistency; you’ll get 2-3 servings.

Now go take that 60-minute walk around your neighborhood. You’re all fueled up.

Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer and chair of the Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic.

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