Q: I live near a park and have often been stung by bees. Apart from being painful, I have heard that bee stings are also dangerous. How should a sting be treated?
A: The bee sting has a venom sac attached. If this sac breaks, chemicals are released into your body that cause pain, redness, local swelling and also allergic reactions. If you get stung, pull out the sting using your fingernail or a stiff card. Take care not to damage the venom sac. Wash the area with soap and water and apply ice. If the area is red and irritated, apply calamine lotion or hydrocortisone ointment. If there is swelling, see a doctor. You might be prescribed antihistamines.
Q: I have yellow deposits near my eyelids. They are soft and painless but look very ugly.
A: These are called xanthomas. They are caused by deposits of fat under the skin. Although they can occur anywhere —such as the elbows, knees and buttocks — eyelids are the commonest place. Xanthomas are harmless but indicative of high cholesterol, diabetes, liver cirrhosis or certain cancers. The pills you take to lower cholesterol may cause xanthomas to shrink. You can have them surgically removed, but if you do not get high cholesterol or diabetes treated (the reason they appeared in the first place), xanthomas can recur.
Q: My daughter is a year old and has no teeth. My sister’s daughter was born with two teeth. Is there reason for worry?
A: One out of 2,000 children have “natal teeth” at birth. Usually teeth appear between six and 12 months but teeth can appear as early as one month or be delayed beyond the first birthday and that is normal. However, in rare cases, the delay can also be due to Down’s syndrome, thyroid disease or bone disease. You need to consult both a paediatrician and a dentist.
Q: I recently started jogging and have developed knee pain. My friends have all advised me to stop. They say all runners develop knee pain. Is this true?
A: Runners are not more prone to osteoarthritis of the knee but they do tend to develop pain around the patella (knee cap). This is due to failure to warm up adequately and stretch properly before and after exercising. The quadriceps (the big muscles in front of the knee) also require to be strengthened.
If you develop pain after jogging, apply an ice pack. It will reduce inflammation and pain.
Q: I frequently develop diarrhoea after I eat at social functions. I cannot refuse to eat without giving offence. Is there a preventive tablet that I can take?
A: You may not be able to tolerate the oil or the colouring and other condiments added to the food. The mineral water provided might also not be of ISI standard. You can avoid diarrhoea, if you stick to vegetarian food, avoid fried items and not drink any water. The safest food is curd rice.
If you do develop diarrhoea, take equal quantities of rice and moong dal and cook it in a pressure cooker with salt. Eat only this for 24 hours.
Idiot box blues
Q: My son used to do well in school (he is in Class VII). Now he complains of inability to recall what he has studied and poor mathematical ability. He does his homework in front of the television.
A: Why do you allow him to do homework in front of the television? He cannot possibly solve maths problems correctly while watching serials or cartoons. The rapidly flashing images also deplete the brain chemicals responsible for attention, learning and memory.
Physical activity for an hour a day improves memory. Encourage your son to play outside for an hour and then start his homework in a quiet room with no television. I think you will notice a vast improvement.
Q: I am 86 years old and active. Unfortunately my family members keep telling me to “take rest”. They feel that since I worked hard all my life, I should now just sit quietly. I think if I sit long enough I will die.
A: You are right. Walking and other physical activity keeps you mentally agile and physically fit. It also prevents blood clots from forming in your legs and causing strokes and heart attacks. So keep moving as long as you are able to.
Q: I heard that jaundice causes liver cancer. Is this true?
A: “Jaundice” just means that the blood has high levels of bilirubin. It can be due to several reasons — infection, blood destruction, gall bladder disease etc. One of the causes is primary cancer of the liver or secondary tumour deposits there.
Jaundice because of hepatitis B infection can also cause liver cancer. This can be prevented by immunisation with three doses of hepatitis B vaccine.