Q: All the people in my apartment block are afflicted by sneezing and skin allergies. Recently I discovered that a neighbour rears parrots. Could it be due to this?
A: Parrots and other birds can cause allergies. Mites that live on the birds’ dander or feathers cause the allergies. The problem will persist as long as the parrots are there. But if they are confined to his apartment, it is unlikely that the allergens will affect all of you. So, before you blame the parrot fancier, please check if there are other allergens in the environment. Many people are allergic to incense sticks, mosquito repellents, burning camphor, or pollen.
Q: My brother has schizophrenia. My parents do not want to have him treated as they are afraid of what our relatives will say if the news leaks out. They are also afraid it will hamper my marriage prospects.
A: Mental illnesses are due to biochemical imbalances in the brain. They are chronic illnesses, like diabetes, high blood pressure and arthritis. They require medication, rehabilitation and regular follow up visits to a psychiatrist. Medication is also needed for rectification. Unfortunately 75 per cent of the people do not accept this. The mentally ill are often denied treatment by their families. You need to take a firm stand in this regard and insist on treatment for your brother.
Boils on my face
Q: I get painful boils (not pimples) on my face, and my arms and legs also. After a few days they turn yellow and burst, discharging blood stained yellow pus.
A: Some people carry an organism called Staphylococcus on their skin and in their nose. The bacteria live in harmony with the person. When the skin is injured, they get access to the deeper layers of the skin. They then form these boils.
Bacteria have cell walls that can be broken by certain chemicals like trichlorocarbanilide (TCC). Some soaps like Neko and Dial contain this compound. The total fat content of these soaps is adjusted to be lethal for these bacteria. Bathe twice a day using one of these. On the appearance of a boil, apply a bactericidal ointment like mupirocin or bacitracin after a bath. Apply the same ointment to the nostrils twice a day using buds. Eventually the frequency and intensity of the attacks will reduce.
Low back pain
Q: My mother has terrible backache and the doctor says it is spondolisthesis. Is surgery essential?
A: Spondolisthesis is a term used to describe the slipping forward of the lumbar (back) vertebrae on the sacrum (tailbone). The degree of the slip is measured through CT scans. Surgery is required if it is grade 2 or higher. She can try conservative methods like physiotherapy and a lumbo-sacral support belt initially. As long as she can manage, it may be better to do so as surgery has its own inherent risks. After surgery physical rehabilitation and exercises are essential.
Q: My daughter was born with the tips of two fingers of her left hand missing. The paediatrician said it is amniotic band syndrome. Will my next child also be affected?
A: The amniotic sac lines the inside of the uterus during pregnancy. The baby floats in this sac in a fluid called amniotic fluid. At times the sac ruptures in a place or two. This results in the formation of fibrous bands in the fluid. As the uterus grows the bands tighten. If it occurs around a finger, that may get severed (congenital amputation). The fingers can be reconstructed through plastic surgery. The condition is non-recurrent and your next child is unlikely to inherit it.
Reconstruction of the fingers with plastic surgery is the remedy.
Q: My father, 70 years, wants to join a Tai-chi class. Is that advisable? I have heard that it is a form of martial art from China which consists of hundreds of combinations of graceful and flowing movements.
A: Taught well by an expert and practised scientifically, Tai Chi improves balance, posture and strength. It provides flexibility and aligns painful arthritic and ageing joints. It also helps focus and improves concentration. Hence it has a positive effect on loss of memory, forgetfulness and mild dementia related to old age. The rhythmic breathing tones circulation, relaxes the mind, eases tension and aids restful sleep at night.
The advantages are many. In short, it is an ideal form of exercise for older people. You should be glad that your father wants to join a class.
Sources: The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)