Q: My son has a great deal to study and does not have time to play outside. He plays computer games at home in his spare time. He is now developing breasts and a potbelly.
A: Structured games, either in school or in sports coaching classes, teach children team play and co-operation. They help develop co-ordination and discipline. They also build up stamina and concentration. Eventually children with regular play time concentrate better, study harder and do better academically. They develop stamina to work through fatigue. They are less likely to get addicted to alcohol and drugs. So you could consider enrolling him in athletic or games coaching or in martial arts (karate, kung fu, taekwondo) training.
Q: I am sure that I get bitten by mosquitoes more often than others around me. The site of the bite swells up and becomes very itchy.
A: Each person’s body odour is different and some people are bitten more because mosquitoes like their body odour. You also seem to be allergic to the bites.
To prevent bites, bathe twice a day with a neem-based soap. Wear long-sleeved, light-coloured clothing. You may be allergic to topically applied mosquito repellents while vaporising mosquito repellents cause respiratory allergies. Try a light that traps insects. The newer smart phones have a free app that emits an ultrasonic sound that repels mosquitoes. It might be worth downloading and switching it on when you are in a mosquito infested area.
Q: I have six fingers on my left hand. My mother says it is lucky and will not let me get it surgically removed.
A: The correct name for extra digits is polydactyly. The digit may be a loosely hanging bit of flesh and skin or a fully formed finger. If the pedicle is very narrow, it can get snagged on clothing, and bleed. It has to be removed surgically if you wish to get rid of it. The choice is yours. Luck has nothing to do with it.
Gout or not
Q: My uric acid is 9.6mg but I have no joint pains. Do I have gout?
A: Not everyone with a high uric acid level develops joint pain and florid gout. However the uric acid can get precipitated in the urine and form kidney stones. The high level may be transitory and due to increased intake of sugar (sweetened drinks), fasting or rapid weight loss. Check again after a month. If they are still high consult a physician.
Q: I apply talcum powder on my face as my skin is oily but it burns when I go out in the sun. I also feel my skin is discoloured in patches.
A: If you feel your skin is oily, you should wash it more often. But remember that the skin’s natural oils protect against wrinkles. Talcum powder can clog the pores of your skin. Talcum also contains mild perfume to give it a pleasant smell. This can cause an allergy or sun sensitivity and could be responsible for the burning sensation.
Q: I jog every day. Should I do stretching exercises before it?
A: A light warm up by walking for about five minutes before you start running kick starts the muscles. Recent studies in elite athletes and basketball players have shown that stretching before activity makes them more prone to injury.
Q: I am a 23-year-old female and weigh 88kg. I have unsightly lumps of fat on my thighs and stomach and I am being rejected for marriage because of this. My friend suggested liposuction.
A: Liposuction is a quick fix solution, an expensive way to sculpt your body and remove the excess fat. Unfortunately, studies have shown that you will regain the fat you have lost within a year. The only way to prevent this is through diet and exercise.
Why don’t you try diet and regular exercise sincerely for a year. You are likely to achieve the same benefits. The change in your lifestyle is likely to make your weight loss permanent. It will also make you physically fit.
Dr Gita Mathai is a paediatrician with a family practice at Vellore. Questions on health issues may be emailed to her at email@example.com