Some Health Quaries & Answers

‘I strayed and am scared’:-

Q: I had a misunderstanding with my wife and left her for three years. At that time I fell in love with a married woman. Recently her husband died. I think he had AIDS. I have left my partner and am back home, but am very scared.

Having a single sexual partner considerably lowers the risk of STDs

A: Fear of disease is difficult to live with. You can have yourself tested for HIV infection at any government hospital or voluntary counselling and testing centre at a nominal cost. If you wish to maintain confidentiality you can go to a reputed private laboratory. HIV is only one of the sexually transmitted diseases. It is better to also check for syphilis and hepatitis B by doing the appropriate blood tests. Use a condom until you have got the results of the tests.

Terminating a pregnancy:-

Q: My periods are overdue by 10 days and I feel I may be pregnant. I have a one-year-old baby born by caesarean section, and am not prepared to have another child. I want to know if I can take tablets to abort the pregnancy.

A: Having only one child is a decision to be made by you and your husband. However, you must use some form of contraception to efficiently prevent pregnancy rather than try to terminate it after conception. The former recourse is medically safer than the latter. Before you panic, do a pregnancy test rather than “feel” pregnant. Feelings and symptoms can be deceptive. Tablets (Mifepristone) can be taken to terminate a pregnancy under strict medical supervision. If the tablets fail, you must be prepared to follow through with a surgical termination. Otherwise you are likely to have a malformed baby.

Asthmatic child:-

Q: My son wishes to do computer engineering. I do not want to send him for the course, as I know the classrooms are air-conditioned. He has asthma.

An asthmatic child takes an inhaler to help him breathe more easily

A: Today, asthma can be managed effectively with inhalers, rotahalors, nebulisers and other drug delivery devices. The attack is controlled in minutes. Your son needs to be educated in the use of these devices and in the control of his problem. You could get in touch with a respiratory physician who will be able to guide you. Having asthma is not a contra indication to studying engineering in an air-conditioned classroom.

The calcium question:-

Q: How long do I need to take calcium tablets?

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A: People need calcium all through their lives. The amount of calcium you need to stay healthy changes over your lifetime. The highest requirements are during adolescence, pregnancy and lactation. Although much of the calcium comes from the diet, supplements are required during this time. Postmenopausal women and older men also need to take more calcium. This is because as age advances the body not only becomes less efficient at absorbing calcium, there may also be other medications that interfere with its absorption. Around 1,500mg a day is needed at this time.

Stomach disease:-

Q: I have been told I have GERD. I do not know what it is and if it is curable. I have been given tablets but would prefer to drink antacids.

A: GERD simply is a pneumonic for Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease. It can be controlled by a variety of tablets that suppress acid formation. The medication works faster and at a lower dose if a few lifestyle changes are made at the same time.

If you are overweight, diet and exercise to get in shape

Eat small, frequent meals instead of three large ones

Drink at least 3-4 litres of water a day.

Remember, drinking milk only provides temporary respite. It often results in rebound acidity. Drinking glucose dissolved in water aggravates the problem and may cause vomiting. Antacids neutralise the acid but do not suppress the formation. They interfere with other medication and prevent their absorption. Long-term use of antacids containing aluminium has been associated with Alzheimer’s disease. It is thus better to follow your doctor’s advice.

My baby vomits:-

Q: My baby vomits whenever I feed him. I am very worried.

A: If a child vomits consistently after feeding, you must weigh him every week. If the weight is increasing it means the baby is getting enough food despite the vomiting. Some simple remedies are to feed the baby with the body held at least at a 45-degree angle, not lying down, even at night. After feeding, the baby needs to be burped to release air inadvertently trapped while swallowing. This may help.

If the vomited material looks like curd, it is “spitting up” and this is usually harmless. If it is yellow in colour and projectile, the symptom needs evaluation. Just blindly giving commercially available carminative preparations is neither advisable nor effective.

Sources: The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

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