Ask the doctor: readers’ health questions answered
Professor Kerryn Phelps answers readers’ questions on eczema, dandruff, bloodshot eyes, ticks and more, plus reports on a new test for breast cancer.
QI’m 28 years old and have had eczema since I was five, but this year has been the worst. I have seen a dermatologist, but unfortunately, it has flared up again. How do I get my eczema under control? S.M., Qld.
You need a comprehensive approach. Acute flare-ups may need steroid creams, but they do have disadvantages when used long term and they do not treat the cause. There may be a food allergy (typically gluten, dairy, egg or nuts), which you can identify with an elimination diet. Environmental chemicals, such as cosmetics, may make it worse.
Make sure you eat plenty of fruit and vegetables. Supplements which may help include zinc, vitamin E, fish oil, flaxseed oil, vitamin C and the probiotic lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG.
QMy job requires me to be at my computer all day. I have been experiencing very watery and bloodshot eyes recently. Can you suggest something to help them? I sometimes use saline drops, but that’s all. K.L., NSW.
Your red eyes may not be related to your computer use. Have your eyes checked by your GP or optometrist. Possibilities include conjunctivitis, allergy, scleritis and uveitis.
QI live in an area that is known as a tick hot spot. My children play all the time in the backyard and at the local park, and I’m worried they are going to get one. What should I look out for? S.O., NSW.
Check your children’s skin and scalp every night when they are about to get in the bath. Check under their arms, in their ears, in their belly buttons, through their hair and between their legs. Check their clothing for ticks. Carefully follow instructions for tick removal. For more information, visit health.gov.au and search for “tick bite prevention”.
QMy husband has been getting a lot of dandruff lately. None of the antidandruff shampoos are working. What causes it and what else should he try? T.O., Vic.
He should see his GP so that the skin of his scalp can be closely examined. A gentle unscented non-soap scalp cleanser may be all that is needed. However, it may be seborrhoeic dermatitis, psoriasis or a fungal skin infection needing specific medical treatment.
QI’m in my second trimester and have had all my injections, including the whooping cough booster. Should I wait until my new baby has had the six-week vaccinations before there are any visitors? P.W., Vic.
Keep visitors to a minimum in the first six weeks and make sure that anyone who does have contact with the baby has been immunised against whooping cough and influenza.
QMy 10-year-old daughter has become a vegetarian. Should I be giving her a multivitamin to ensure she isn’t missing out on essential nutrients? D.V., Qld. It is possible to have a healthy vegetarian child, but it takes a lot of information and effort. See a dietitian for an eating plan to make sure she is not missing out on essential nutrients. The main risks for deficiency are iron, zinc, vitamin B12 and protein. Try to include eggs and tofu. A multivitamin and a protein supplement may help to plug the gaps.
QI’m only 29 years old, but I keep getting severe tension headaches that last only a few minutes. Are these common? What can bring them on? A.S., SA.
This is not the usual pattern for tension headaches. See a physiotherapist who specialises in spinal conditions to check your neck and your GP can check you for other possible causes.