Trucker MD
I’m hot, tired, and I think I have fleas

By John McElligot, MD

Trucking in the heat just kicks my butt. Once or twice I’ve felt faint when cleaning my trailer floor on a hot day. How do I know if I’m having heat stroke or heat exhaustion?

Heat syncope is when you overheat and faint. It may be heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Both can cause blacking out (syncope). You can tell the difference by paying attention to some simple details. Was your skin red hot and dry? Or was it sweaty and cool? The first one is heat stroke – when you quit sweating. The second is heat exhaustion – when you sweat excessively. Whichever one it was, you need to replace your fluids and electrolytes immediately.

Once you have either condition, you are more prone to having it again. Most folks need at least 2-3 liters a day of water to remain in equilibrium. On a hot day you may need more. Make this important note to yourself: Don’t underestimate the sun. Heat poses big risks for truckers.

My wife has a chronic illness and travels with me in the truck. We now have a new dog in the truck, too. Is it safe for my wife to kiss on our dog? Can we catch diseases or anything from our dog? Plus, I think we have fleas; how do we avoid an all-out flea infestation?

First of all, can you catch a disease from your pet? Yes.

Infections acquired from animals are called zoonotic diseases or infections. The most common zoonotic infections come from parasites in the hookworm family and the roundworm family. Puppies are more likely to have these types of worms.

However, more serious infections can be contracted if your dog or cat is exposed to other animals. For example, do you ever walk your pet around a lake where duck and geese spend the winter or spring? You and your pet can contract a parasite known as giardia. After exposure you and your pet can experience anything from no symptoms to serious diarrhea.

You can also get a fungal rash like ringworm from your pet. 

Is it safe to smooch on your dog? It depends. What was the last thing your pet licked or chewed on? In addition, I do not advise you to feed your pet table food as germs from your pet can contaminate your fingertips and get into your mouth.

Of course, tick and flea bites are common. To avoid getting a bunk full of fleas, my advice is to frequently inspect your pet and your truck for contamination. Don’t let it get started; practice good vet care and screening.

The most common pets carried by truckers are dogs and cats – although in my career in trucking I have seen everything. Whatever you choose as your trucking companion, you need to make sure it is checked by a veterinarian on a routine basis. Keep up the vaccinations.

Keep your pet’s area, water and food bowl clean. Practice the four Ps as suggested by the Centers for Disease Control: Pick up Pet Poop Promptly. One more thing – dispose of it promptly and properly.

I am convinced that truckers who travel with a pet are healthier and more emotionally stable. The trucker who accepts the responsibility of a pet must be more organized and the ultimate time manager.

However, pet owners with a chronic illness – like your wife – should take extra caution with pets since their immune systems may not be up to snuff. LL


John McElligott is an MD, Fellow of the American College of Physicians, and medical director of the St. Christopher Truckers Development and Relief Fund. This column is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Land Line Magazine or its publisher.