Q: My daughter is two years old and very thin. She is picky about her food and I feel she does not eat enough. Her weight is only 9kg. Is it a good idea to give her appetite stimulating tonics?
A: Normally, a child weighs triple its birth weight at the end of the first year and adds 2kg the next year. So your daughter may be in the normal range. It is better to try to discover why she does not eat and treat the cause rather than use tonics. Appetite stimulants can have severe side effects. Some of them contain large amounts of iodine, steroids or cyproheptadine (a banned chemical). They are best avoided.
What you can do is reduce her milk intake to 400ml a day. Give half after breakfast and the rest at tea time. Figure out what she likes to eat.
Also, get her dewormed; your paediatrician will tell you how. And remember, some children are just difficult when it comes to food.
Q: I get sudden painful spasms in my fingers and toes, especially at night. I am 34 years old.
A: Calcium deficiency can cause this. If you are not on calcium supplements, starting them may help. Consult a physician to help with the diagnosis and dosage of calcium.
Q: Is there a natural way to reduce blood pressure? Currently I am on a lot of medication for it.
A: You can reduce your dependence on tablets by achieving ideal body weight (height in metre squared multiplied by 23), walking an hour a day, reducing salt intake to 2.5gm a day, avoiding salted snacks, sleeping at regular hours and reducing stress with yoga and meditation.
Fit and fine
Q: My son is one and a half years old and has had fits twice. The doctor says it is fever fits. I am worried that he may become epileptic. What is a fever fit?
A: A febrile seizure (fever fit) usually occurs in children under the age of 5 during an episode of fever. Only one third of the affected children have a second seizure. A certain percentage of children will develop epilepsy but the incidence is not greater in those who have had febrile seizures. Also, these children do not develop mental retardation nor is their intelligence affected. But a febrile fit can be frightening to watch. To prevent such seizures, fever has to be tackled immediately. Buy a digital thermometer and check the temperature by placing it in the childs armpit (remember, your hand is not a thermometer). If the temperature is greater than 100°F, give the child 10mg/kg of paracetemol. Remove the childs clothes and sponge him down with tap water. Turn the fan on full speed. After four hours check the temperature again. If it has risen, repeat the above process. Contact your doctor.
Q: I have cracked feet. Not only does it look ugly, when water enters the cracks they become painful and inflamed.
A: You could try soaking your feet in hot water to which rock salt and liquid soap have been added. After 10 minutes, scrub the foot gently with a small plastic brush. Then apply baby oil. After a few weeks, you will see a vast improvement.
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