Living in Rhode Island has its benefits: long sandy beaches, exquisite dining, small yet vibrant downtown areas. But guess what? There are also some health risks that every Rhode Islander should know about. We’ve put together some things to look out for, and how to prevent them.
Think of the perfect day outside: the sun is shining, you drive to a forested trail and start hiking to your heart’s content. You return home, turn on the shower, strip down and there it is: a tick, and it’s embedded in your skin.
Now is the time to act. Take some tweezers and pull that little sucker all the way out, head and all. Phew. That was a close call. If that tick had been embedded any more than 24 hours, Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Babesiosis, Anaplasmosis, Tularemia and Ehrlichiosis could have been transmitted.
In the United States, Lyme disease is common, and it’s concentrated in the Northeast and upper midwest. Moreover, 96% of confirmed cases were reported from 14 states, including RI. There were 570 cases in RI in 2014 alone.
The symptoms from tick-bourne diseases range from a bulls-eye rash at the bite site to headaches, joint pain and fever to more severe symptoms from an untreated infected bite such as inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, problems with short-term memory and nerve pain.
Performing tick checks after being in tick-prone areas is the easiest way to catch ticks early on. Ticks tend to embed themselves in areas where clothing is tight to the body such as the sock and undergarment line. Another fashion forward and prudent option to prevent bites is to tuck pants into socks. Spraying clothing with Permethrin is also a viable option – it’s an effective chemical against ticks and also long-lasting through multiple washes.
And don’t forget your four-legged friends. Pets are just as susceptible to tick bites as we are. Make sure pets are up-to-date with pest repellant, consider getting them vaccinated and if they start to show any symptoms take them to the vet. For more information regarding ticks and prevention check out tickencounter.org
Although folks may only be thinking pink in October, breast cancer is at the forefront of disease concern in Rhode Island year round. Fact: more women are diagnosed with breast cancer in Rhode Island than in any other state in the country. Men can get breast cancer too, accounting for 2% of cases. Having a mother, sister or daughter diagnosed with breast cancer increases your risk; however, 80% of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history or do not test positive for the breast cancer gene.
Of course, there are things you can do to catch the disease early if it is present – early detection is key, afterall. Performing a monthly breast exam is a great start. Getting an annual clinical breast exam is also an important prevention technique. If you don’t have any risk factors, getting an annual mammogram starting at 40 is essential.
Symptoms and signs that you will want to catch early on include lumps in the breast tissue, skin changes to the breast and any sort of discharge from the nipple. This goes for men, too, who have an increased risk of succumbing to breast cancer because it is usually diagnosed at a later stage.
Alcohol and Addiction
Rhode Island may be the smallest state, but it tends to make national news. Often touted as one of the best states for food, art and culture, it also ranks high in alcoholism and substance abuse. Some sobering facts: Rhode Island has the third highest rate of alcohol-poisoning deaths in the country, and we have the highest use of illicit drugs in the country.
The good news is that there are hard-working people at the forefront of research to determine why some fall victim to addiction and how to help them break the cycle. Brown University’s Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies is one option. They offer the opportunity for folks struggling with alcohol, marijuana and other substances to take part in trials and surveys, often with some compensation offered. Surveys range from how to best share information about adolescent substance abuse treatment to helping folks who are actively trying to stop drinking through medication. brown.edu
Alcoholics Anonymous also has a vast network throughout Rhode Island. Being accountable for your actions through the support of a group is a tried and true method of sobering up. This worldwide organization has helped countless individuals recover from alcoholism. Al-Anon is a partner organization that helps the families and friends of alcoholics find support and understanding in a group setting. There are also myriad support groups available for those wanting to end substance abuse addiction in the form of Narcotics Anonymous. rhodeIsland-aa.org, gpnana.org
Rhode Island has the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to the health of our citizens. But one thing is for sure, because of our small size and interconnectedness, help is only a phone call, website or text away.