Ask the doctor:
readers’ health questions answered
Q My five-year-old son occasionally gets an upset stomach after eating bread. He has been fine in the past, but just recently he has started complaining of stomach cramps. What tests can he have done to find out if it’s a gluten problem? S.A. His GP will arrange blood tests to include investigations for coeliac disease. If these tests suggest coeliac disease, he will be referred fora gastroscopy to confirm the diagnosis. If he does have coeliac disease, it will mean a strict lifelong gluten-free diet. If not, a dietitian can supervise a trial of a glutenfree diet to see if it relieves his symptoms. Q I have been getting lots of cramps in my legs at night. They don’t seem to subside without me getting up and walking around for 15 minutes or so. What do I do? Are there any supplements I can take to help? P.D. A medical check-up will identify possible causes such as underactive thyroid or a medication side-effect. Stretching after exercise may help. Try a warm bath before bed. A magnesium supplement may help. Q I am a 48-year-old man in relatively fit condition. I eat well and exercise regularly to ensure I am healthy in later life, as my father and grandfather died of a heart attack in their 50s and 60s. A friend told me I should take an aspirin a day. Do you agree? L.P. See your GP for a comprehensive assessment of your heart disease risk. This includes your blood pressure, blood sugar, smoking history, weight and possibly cardiac stress testing or imaging of your coronary arteries. Based on your results, your doctor will advise whether taking aspirin is indicated. Q My teenage son sweats a lot and, despite wearing a clinical-strength deodorant every day, he comes home from school with large patches of sweat under the arms. What can you recommend we do to stop this? S.W. Teenagers tend to sweat more because of the hormonal changes in their bodies. Encourage him to shower in the morning and again at night. He could also take a roll-on antiperspirant to school and apply it at breaks. Q I am 31 years old and I am quitting smoking as I want to become pregnant at the end of the year. Can I use a nicotine substitute in the months before having a baby to wean myself off cigarettes? T.R. I would recommend you first see a psychologist to help you with behavioural methods of quitting. You could use nicotine replacement to help you withdraw in the short term, but with a plan to be nicotine-free before you become pregnant.
HAVE A QUESTION?
If you have a question for Professor Kerryn Phelps, write to: Ask The Doctor, PO Box 92512, Wellesley Street, Auckland 1141 or email firstname.lastname@example.org; subject Q&A. Letters cannot be answered personally.