Q: I really cannot spare an hour a day to exercise but I want to be fit and healthy. Is there an alternative?
A: You could skip 1,000 times. There are several innovative ways to skip — using one leg, two legs, alternating legs. That makes in interesting.
You can do continuous stair climbing for 15 minutes, up and down, not 15 times but 15 minutes.
You need to wear good supportive footwear for these activities. You also need to stretch before and after.
Q: My 16-year-old daughter is tall and has normal physical development. She is neither thin nor fat. The problem is that she has not yet started getting her periods. I am worried that something may be wrong.
A: Usually, if the height, weight and other physical characteristics (figure) are normal, you can wait until the age of 18 years to see if she matures. If you are worried, you can do an endocrinology work up and a scan of the pelvic organs. If there is any specific defect, an endocrinologist will be able to treat it.
Q: My cat bit and scratched my face. It was not really an aggravated bite, she attacked me when I was sleeping. I avoided the government hospital and went to a doctor who said that there was no need for anxiety and applied ointment on the wounds.
A: Cat bites are as dangerous as dog bites because cats can also transmit rabies. If you get bitten by an animal, clean the wound well with soap and water. You need to take a tetanus booster, and anti rabies injections. You need the post exposure schedule, which consists of five injections. The newer vaccines do not hurt, are given in the upper arm (deltoid) and not around the navel or in the buttock. They are available in private clinics, pharmacies and hospitals. You do not have to go to a government hospital.
Q: Whenever I get up from sleep, I have backache. I am unable to stand straight or walk properly for a few minutes but after that I am fine. I am 23 years old.
A: Sometimes if the bed or mattress is not ideal — too soft, too hard, lumpy — this can happen. Try sleeping on a mat on the floor for a few days. If this does not help then you need to consult a doctor to evaluate your spine.
Q: I feel that I am very thin. I lack a forceful personality because of that. I want to gain weight.
A: Being thin, or being fat, is often a perception. You need to multiply your height in metre squared by 23 to see what your ideal body weight is. Then you will be able to determine accurately how much weight you need to gain or lose. If you are underweight you just need to increase your food intake and reduce your activity.
Q: My daughter eats chalk whenever she gets a chance. If there is no chalk at home, she eats uncooked rice. Once I caught her eating a piece of brick.
A: Your daughter seems to have pica — a perverted appetite with a longing for things that are not food. It is usually due to iron deficiency and / or lack of calcium and zinc.
You need to first deworm her with albendazole and then give supplements of iron, calcium and zinc. Your paediatrician will help you.
Q: My wife develops urinary tract infection every 3-4 months. She is not diabetic. Her pelvic scan is normal.
A: Women tend to develop urinary tract infection more frequently than men. The problem is anatomical. The urethra is shorter and has only a single valve. It is situated close to the anal opening where there are a lot of potentially infective bacteria. A few preventive measures will help: drink 3-4 litres of water a day, empty your bladder before and after intercourse and lean backwards while passing urine to reduce the angulation between urethra and bladder.
Q: Two days before my periods I develop severe pain on the left side of the abdomen. It disappears a few days after the periods stop.
A: You need to consult a gynaecologist and get an ultrasound scan of the pelvis done. If everything is normal, you just need a painkiller like mefenemic acid on the days that you have pain. If there is anything wrong, the gynaecologist will be able to advice you.
If there are no abnormalities, pain during periods will reduce with regular exercise.
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