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home : columns : ask the doctors June 21, 2021

Herd immunity requires larger number of vaccinations
Ever since the pandemic started, people have been talking about "herd immunity" and how they see it happening. Sometimes it doesn't even seem like they're talking about the same idea. What is herd immunity? Has it ever happened? Will we reach it with the novel coronavirus?
Wednesday, June 2, 2021


Hygiene hypothesis' connection: cleanliness and immune system
Our sister is a messy housekeeper. She calls it the "hygiene hypothesis," and says it's why her kids don't have asthma or allergies and don't catch colds often. Does avoiding antibacterial products and letting the dogs on the couch really keep her kids healthy? We can't tell if she's kidding.
Monday, May 31, 2021

Ask The Doctor
Dear Doctor: My husband was in the hospital for three weeks with COVID-19. He's home again and seems OK physically, but he's not the same person. He's withdrawn and angry, and I think he's depressed. He won't talk about it to me or our kids. What can we do?
Friday, May 28, 2021

Hyperparathyroidism can cause kidney stones
I've suffered from kidney stones since 2017. A parathyroid test came back high, as did my serum calcium. An endocrinologist has ruled out a malignancy and confirmed the diagnosis of hyperparathyroidism. What is it, and what can I expect next?
Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Amniotic injections not current standard of care for arthritis
I am 79 years old and have pain in both shoulders. X-rays show I have arthritis and that it is bone-on-bone. What is happening? Do you think that amniotic injections would help me? I am trying to avoid having surgery.
Monday, May 24, 2021

Night sweats in men could have many causes
How common are night sweats in men, and what causes them? I tease my husband that he's having sympathy hot flashes, but he's not amused. The sweats usually happen between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. Neither his primary care physician nor cardiologist have an answer.
Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Sleep hygiene first step in getting a good night's rest
Even before the pandemic, I had trouble with sleep. It's hard to fall asleep and to stay asleep. I don't want to use any pills or medicines. Are there nondrug approaches that can work? What about lavender, CBD or magnesium?
Monday, May 17, 2021

Donating blood often leads to anemia diagnosis
DEAR DOCTOR: I am 75 years old, and I donate blood as often as they will accept me. However, I'm often anemic and get rejected. I eat a spinach salad every day, and fish, chicken or beef, plus veggies, for dinner. I've been double-dosing on iron supplements, but I'm still anemic. How concerned should I be?
Friday, May 14, 2021

Be sure to check for ticks to avoid disease
I read about a family whose little girl got paralyzed by a tick. How does that happen? There are a lot of ticks where we live, and even though we're careful, somebody gets bitten every summer. Is getting paralyzed something new we have to worry about?
Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Calcium supplement AlgaeCal can increase bone density
Hello, dear readers, and welcome back for our monthly letters column. Warmer weather is here, so please remember to use sun protection, fend off mosquitoes with bug spray and be aware of ticks as you head outdoors. And now, onward to your questions and comments.
Monday, May 10, 2021

Tightness and pain in leg could be due to IT band issues
I've been running during the lockdown, and about a month ago, my outer thigh started to feel like it's clenched up, and the outside of my knee hurts sometimes. My roommate says it's most likely that my IT band is too tight and needs to be stretched. What does that mean?
Friday, May 7, 2021

Asbestos exposure main cause of mesothelioma
It seems like every time I turn on the TV, there's a commercial that talks about mesothelioma. What is it, and how do people get it?
Wednesday, May 5, 2021

How to make the perfect first-aid kit
This year for the kids' summer vacation, we're renting a cabin up in the mountains. My question is, what kind of a first-aid kit should I put together? We will be there a week. We have three very busy boys, who are 8, 11 and 13, and a 4-year-old girl.
Monday, May 3, 2021

Fresh fruits and veggies greatly improve health
Friday, April 30, 2021

Bladder issues not limited to women
I'm a 52-year-old man, and I find that lately I have to urinate more often. My doctor says that it's overactive bladder. I thought that's something that happens to women. Why am I getting it? My doctor says it's not because of my prostate.
Wednesday, April 28, 2021

If you're vaccinated, do you need to wear a mask?
I've had both doses of the Moderna vaccine, and my husband just got the Johnson & Johnson shot. Does this mean we can stop wearing masks? What does being vaccinated mean in terms of what we are safe to do now?
Monday, April 26, 2021

Huntington's disease is progressive, and inherited
My husband was recently diagnosed with Huntington's chorea. Is this the same thing as Huntington's disease? We would like to know what we can expect in the future with this condition. Are there any new treatments yet? What does this mean for our children?
Friday, April 23, 2021

Should exercise gain require pain?
In fitness circles, one often hears the saying, "No pain, no gain." But isn't pain the body's way of warning one to back off? Do you really need to push yourself to the point of pain for a good workout?
Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Some lifestyle changes help prevent prostate cancers
I just had a scare with prostate cancer. The tests turned out negative, but it shook me up. Now I just want to make sure things stay that way. What should I be doing -- and what can my two sons do -- to reduce their risk? I'm 67, and they're in their mid-40s. 
Monday, April 19, 2021

For babies, back is best when it comes to sleep
DEAR DOCTOR: Our daughter is 5 months old, and we always put her to sleep on her back. Lately, when we check on her, she's on her stomach. Should we be keeping an eye out and positioning her on her back again when that happens?
Friday, April 16, 2021

More information about the coronavirus vaccines
Hello again, dear readers, and welcome to our monthly letters column. We're happy to hear that our recent focus on your questions regarding the coronavirus vaccines has been helpful. Keep sending them in, and we'll keep addressing them. Speaking of which:
Wednesday, April 14, 2021

"Prehab" helps patients prepare for surgery
A friend from work needs surgery for lung cancer. He was doing breathing exercises, which he said was part of prehab -- something I've never heard of. I don't want to bother him with questions, but am curious: What's prehab, and why would it be important?
Monday, April 12, 2021

World Almanac
Today is the 102nd day of 2021 and the 24th day of spring.
Monday, April 12, 2021

Doctors debate benefits and detriments of fevers
I'm confused about fever. What is considered a fever? And if fever is the result of a person's body fighting a disease, why is it bad for us? It seems to make no sense to treat a person by lowering their fever.
Friday, April 9, 2021

Watery stool can still occur after gall bladder surgery
My daughter had her gall bladder removed, and two months later she's still suffering from watery diarrhea. She even had to be hospitalized to restore her fluids. What does your gall bladder do? Are there lifestyle or dietary adjustments that could help?
Wednesday, April 7, 2021

CVI not life- threatening, can cause complications
I was recently diagnosed with chronic venous insufficiency in both legs. What is it, and why does it happen? What does it mean for my health?
Monday, April 5, 2021

Diet and exercise can help with arthritis
DEAR DOCTOR: I am 67 years old, with arthritis in my hands and feet. My daughter recently had a fall, and X-rays showed signs of arthritis in her foot. She's only 34. What are the most important things she can do to keep it from progressing, or at least slow it down?
Friday, April 2, 2021

Skin care is for more than beauty
I heard two teenagers in line at the drug store talking about the skin microbiome and how you shouldn't use soap on your face because it wipes out the good bacteria. We hear a lot about the gut microbiome lately, but is the skin microbiome really even a thing?
Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Trigeminal neuralgia is painful but rare
I was diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia a few months ago, which I had never heard of before. I have learned that successful treatment can vary from patient to patient. Can you address this disease in your column?
Monday, March 29, 2021

Whether TMD or Trismus, jaw trouble needs attention
I had trouble opening my mouth wide when I was getting my teeth cleaned, and the hygienist said it could be TMJ. But my sister, who is a chiropractor, says she thinks it's a muscle spasm. What is TMJ, anyway?
Friday, March 26, 2021

Diet can make a difference in age-related thinning hair
My hair has been thin since I was young, and now that I'm growing older, it's getting worse. Why is that happening? Is there anything I can add to my diet to make my hair thicker and healthier, or is thinner hair inevitable with aging?
Wednesday, March 24, 2021









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