Trucker MD
Color-blindness, muscle spasms

By John McElligott, MD

What vaccines do you recommend for professional truck drivers? What about the shingles shot?

Here are three that, in my opinion, are a must and save tens of thousands of lives. I recommend a flu shot every year. Second, I recommend a pneumococcal vaccine. If you are younger than 65, you should have one or two doses five years apart. And, yes, I recommend a zoster (shingles) shot if you are over 60 years of age.

The shingles shot is pricey but can prevent shingles, a very painful condition caused by herpes zoster, which is difficult to treat. It is important to keep a good record of all of your past immunizations and plan ahead for the future, based on the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control.

My husband is a driver who is trying desperately to lose weight. He is convinced the only way to lose is to just stop eating. He is starving himself and consequently feels horrible and exhausted. But he has not lost weight.

That’s because fasting does not work. As a truck driver, your body is constantly producing stress hormones. When you fast, everything you eat goes into storage, not to energy production. This is most likely why you do not lose weight. Also, if you are morbidly obese (BMI greater than 42), you will lose inches but not weight. Because water is heavier than fat, as fat goes out water fills the fat cell and so there may be a modest weight gain.

Losing weight is multifactorial – affected by age, family genetics, activity level, medical issues and, of course, diet. Rapid weight loss is not a reasonable goal after age 40. Depending on your risk factors, it may be near impossible without a long-range program. If your weight is distributed above the waist and has slowly progressed over a period of years and you have, say, diabetes, sleep apnea and strong family history, it can be a battle. I recommend a planned long-term weight-loss program.

Why do they call colon cancer a “silent” cancer? Aren’t there symptoms?

Colon cancer is not only silent in its early stages, but also expensive to detect. Like all cancer, early detection is imperative for a successful treatment result.

Colon cancer is more difficult to diagnose in truck drivers. Most of the symptoms are ones that truckers demonstrate because of lifestyle and diet, so no alarm bells go off. These include constipation; sense of incomplete bowel movement; blood on the toilet paper; bright red or maroon-colored stool; and black stool.

The latter two would seem to be an obvious flag, but truck stop bathrooms are not necessarily places where truckers check their stool for changes. In addition, some drivers take supplements with iron, which can mask the true stool color.

The symptoms of colon cancer located on the right side – or at the beginning of the colon – can be vague. They may consist of nausea and vomiting, and nonspecific abdominal pain. These symptoms will rapidly change when the obstruction becomes more complete. Such an obstruction produces a slow but progressive abdominal pain and more common symptoms such as weight loss and fatigue. 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.