Ask the doctor: readers’ health questions answered
Professor Kerryn Phelps responds to readers’ health questions and concerns.
Q Is it true there may be a cure for multiple sclerosis as a result of stem cell research? My brother has MS and I would love to help him. He's fine at the moment, but I am really worried about the future. Is this likely to be available to help him? F.D.
At the moment there are no approved stem cell therapies for multiple scelerosis – it is considered to be in the experimental stage. However, there is exciting progress in stem cell research which is showing potential in slowing MS disease activity and for repairing damage to the nervous system.
Q My doctor has recommended antidepressants for my 18-year-old daughter, who is at university and finding it hard to sleep, study and socialise – she is naturally very shy and nervous. I am deeply worried about her and want her to get well, but am unsure if this is the right step. Can you please advise at all? N.F.
It is important to explore the cause of her symptoms and ways of helping her to adjust to the new challenges of university. Counselling, regular exercise, establishing a regular bedtime routine and avoiding caffeine and alcohol will all help. An assessment by a psychologist or psychiatrist would be helpful.
Q I am flying for the first time with my nine-year-old, who has a severe nut allergy, and am terrified about accidental nut traces on the airline food given to us or even to nearby passengers. It is such an enclosed space. What precautions should I take? B.C.
There are no guidelines or procedures for airlines to follow concerning nut or other food allergies. Even if all airlines removed nuts from their catering, it wouldn’t prevent passengers from bringing them on board. You will need to have an anaphylaxis plan and carry medication. However, the only way to be completely safe is for your child not to fly, because a mid-air allergy emergency could be catastrophic.
There is exciting progress in stem cell research which is showing potential in slowing MS activity.