| Signals from cell phone towers affect pacemakers (below)
Q: I own a flat on the third (top) floor of a building. The residents association has leased out the terrace to a cell phone company which has erected a tower there. I have a pacemaker and am worried about the impact of the signals from the tower on my heart. What should I do?
A: Signals from microwaves and cell phones do affect pacemakers. Irregularities in the heart rate have been noticed when a phone is held even 15cm away from the pacemaker. When you are living just under a phone tower, the signal is likely to be strong and powerful. The first symptoms of the pacemaker being affected are a feeling of faintness and irregularity in your pulse rate. You can be fitted with a 24-hour monitoring device by your cardiologist. This will document any irregularity, so you know it is real and not psychological.
If there are any changes, it may make sense to move. Your building association is unlikely to cancel a financially lucrative enterprise and get the tower relocated.
Circumcise to protect?
Q: I read that circumcision offers protection against AIDS. I wonder if I should get my one-year-old son circumcised.
A: Circumcision is a surgical procedure that involves removal of the skin and mucosal tissue that covers the glans, the tip of the penis. Circumcision is unconditionally practised by Jews and Muslims. It is a part of their religious culture. In others it is usually performed if the foreskin gets stuck (phimosis) or infected. It does help in the prevention of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. But it does not give 100 per cent protection.
All operations can have complications. Problems like infection or bleeding, though rare, can arise after the surgery. Unless your sons paediatrician has advised circumcision for a particular reason, it does not make sense to put him through elective surgery. When he is older, teaching him about responsibility, sexual norms and safe sex may be a better option.
Yellow vs white
Q: There are natural and artificial eggs available in the market. The colour of the yolk in the two differs. Is there a difference in their nutritive values? Is eating eggs healthy?
A: Eggs contain easily digestible proteins, fats, vitamins and antioxidants. They are a complete food in themselves. The recommended intake is one egg a day for those with a normal lipid profile (cholesterol and triglycerides). If the lipids are raised, cutting down on yolks to a maximum of two per week would be fine. Egg whites do not add to the cholesterol level, and you can eat as many of these as you like.
The colour of the yolk only depends on the type of feed the hen has received. It does not affect the eggs nutritive value. By natural eggs, I think you mean those laid by hens that roam free, and by artificial the ones that are laid in hatcheries. Nutrition-wise, both are the same.
Q: My daughter listens to music the whole day. I dont like it, but do not want to put a stop to it unless it is harmful.
A: If your daughter is listening to music instead of doing her homework or studying, perhaps you need to interfere. But do check her academic performance first. Listening to music does have many positive effects. It soothes, pacifies and relieves tension in children and in adults. Music during exercise provides a cognitive boost, in addition to the other benefits of regular activity. Loud music, on the other hand, can damage hearing, increase the heart rate and produce paradoxical excitement.
Q: My shoes never fit both the feet perfectly. One is always a little loose or tight.
A: A persons feet may not be identical in shape and size. One is usually marginally larger than the other. If this difference is marked, footwear will never fit properly. It is better to buy a bigger size and wear two socks on the foot that is smaller. Otherwise, you have to buy two pairs of shoes.
Q: I pierced my ear in the upper part, in addition to the ear lobe. It has become red, swollen and painful. My ear now looks ugly and deformed. What should I do?
A: The condition you are describing is called cauliflower ear. It occurs when a blood clot develops in the cartilage of the ear as a result of injury. The accumulated blood becomes infected and this destroys the cartilage, making it shrunken and shrivelled.
As soon as there is pain and swelling owing to an injury (even piercing), it should be treated with ice packs and antibiotics. Once it becomes misshapen, cosmetic reconstruction by a plastic surgeon is the only option.
Dr Gita Mathai is a paediatrician with a family practice at Vellore. Questions on health issues may be emailed to her at firstname.lastname@example.org