Help, I’m claustrophobic
Q: I am a 53-year-old man with no illnesses. I have been suffering from claustrophobia for a long time. I cannot ride an elevator, travel in tube rail, enter a tunnel or sit in a confined space. I cannot bear to have the window closed. My office is air-conditioned, because of which I took voluntary retirement. I feel miserable. Is there any remedy?
A: Claustrophobia is an anxiety disorder which produces an intense and irrational fear of enclosed spaces. It is common, affecting 3 to 5 per cent of the population. A person suffering from claustrophobia may panic when inside an elevator, an aeroplane, a crowded room or any other confined area. Once a person has experienced a number of panic attacks, he or she becomes increasingly afraid of experiencing another. Such people start to avoid situations that may bring on the attack. However, any coping technique that relies solely on avoiding these situations can only make the phobia worse. It is also not feasible. Anticipation of confinement intensifies the feelings of anxiety and fear. Psychological methods are used for the treatment of claustrophobia. Sometimes medications are also needed. Successful treatment requires six to eight weeks.
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Planning a baby
He refuses to eat
Q: Our son is 18 months old and does not eat any of the baby foods like Ceralac and Farex. We even imported some ready-to-eat Heinz products but he does not like them either. Please help.
A: It is better to put the child on a normal diet and have him sit with the rest of the family for meals. You may need to reduce the amount of spices in the food so that he can also enjoy it. Allow him to try and eat on his own, while you break the food into small pieces and feed him with a spoon from the side. Cut the milk intake to 400 ml a day. Do not top up meals with milk, or else he will get the idea that he does not need to make an effort to chew solid food. Many children do not like the synthetic taste of precooked weaning foods. Try tasting it. You may not like it either.
I have emphysema
Q: I smoke around 30 cigarettes a day. A few days ago, I had great difficulty in breathing and the doctor says I have “emphysema”. What can I do?
A: Emphysema is a chronic disease of the lung that causes shortness of breath. It occurs when the lung tissues necessary to support the physical shape and function of the lung are destroyed. Treatment for emphysema depends on the severity of the ailment.
In your case the damage seems to have occurred because of cigarettes. Immediately stop smoking (and not reduce the number of cigarettes). It is difficult to quit “cold turkey” but you do not really have an alternative. Medications can be used to improve the functioning of the lung by opening up the passages. These are best given by inhalation, either by using inhalers with a spacer or by home nebulisation with a machine. Bronchodilating tablets may also be required. If the blood oxygenation is not satisfactory, oxygen may have to be given. Antibiotics need to be taken only if there is an infection.
Q: I have terrible pain if I rest my heel on the ground. An X-ray showed a “calcaneal spur”. The doctor has recommended surgery, but I do not want it.
A: No one knows why a heel or calcaneal spur occurs. Excessive friction on that part of the bone seems to result in such a condition. It is more likely to occur in athletes, especially if they do not stretch before and after activity, and overweight people.
Soft cushioned footwear supports the foot and reduces the pain. Regular physiotherapy usually helps. If the pain is unbearable and persists even at rest, injections of corticosteroids and anti-inflammatory medications into the affected area can be tried. Surgery should be considered a last resort.
Source: The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)