Q: The rest of my figure is fine but I have a pot belly. How can I get rid of it?
A: First of all calculate your BMI (weight divided by height in metre squared) and see if it is 23. If it is, it means your body weight is ideal. You can do sit ups and other stomach exercises to flatten the stomach. You also need to do core strengthening exercises to improve your posture so that you stand and sit tall with your stomach tucked in.
If you are overweight, you need to start a regimen of diet and exercise. It is not possible to do “spot reduction” of the stomach alone. Also, that troublesome area is the first place where you gain weight and the last place you lose it from.
Q: My mother has developed a black lesion on the side of her tongue. It is slightly sore and bleeds on and off.
A: Check if the pointed edge of a tooth touches the tongue at that spot. If so, see a dentist. If that is not the case, the lesion needs to be seen by a surgeon. It will probably need a biopsy to evaluate it and decide on further treatment. Do not keep applying local ointments on it in the hope that it will heal as that will only serve to irritate the lesion.
Q: A nail poked my hand near the elbow. There was profuse bleeding. I went to a doctor and he gave me a tetanus toxoid injection and applied some local medication. After a few days it healed and left a black scar. I picked at the scar and it started to bleed again. This has happened many times now.
A: Sometimes when there is a sharp penetrating injury, the trauma may cause the blood vessels (arteries and veins) to join together for an AV (arterio-venous) malformation or fistula. It needs to be surgically tackled by cauterisation (electrical or chemical) or by tying it off. Unless that is done, the cycle of healing and bleeding will continue.
Q: I tend to stammer under stress. I want to join the armed forces and am afraid that I will fail in the interview.
A: Since you have a few months left before the interview, visit a speech therapist. They have excellent techniques to reduce stammering. If that is not possible, try to speak slowly, formulating the thoughts in your head and imagine you are singing your sentences. Practise singing in your spare time. Go for yoga classes and learn relaxation techniques.
Q: My waist itches like crazy where I tie my sari or salwar. The skin has become discoloured and it has also developed a few blisters.
A: You are probably tying your clothes too tightly. Tie the salwar and sari skirt loosely. Change into a loose garment as soon as you reach home. Apply baby oil to the skin after a bath. Avoid medicated and antibiotic ointments. Wash undergarments in mild detergent or a natural neem-based washing soap available in Khadi Kraft.
Walk the talk
Q: After reading about the health benefits of exercise, I’m keen on starting. But I’m 69 years old and don’t really know what to do and how much to do.
A: It is never too late to start. Buy yourself a good pair of walking shoes and sports socks. Start with 30 minutes of walking, either as a single event or split into two or three segments. Walk up to an hour a day over a period of six months. Within a year, you will be the envy of your peers.
Q: I gave my daughter MMR (measles mumps rubella) vaccine at the age of one and a half years but she developed mumps last year at the age of 8.
A: The first dose of MMR vaccine may not produce adequate immunity in 10 per cent of the children. It needs to be followed by a booster at 4-5 years of age.
Q: My son has dark patches on his buttocks. They were present almost from birth. At first I thought that my wife was not washing him properly or that she was holding him too tightly, but I soon discovered this was not the case.
A: The skin pigmentation that you described sounds like Mongolian spots. They are common benign birthmarks. They do not require treatment. They will disappear on their own by the age of 3-5 years.
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