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Answers to your health queries

Fatty liver, bad breath, sleep troubles and eczema

By Dr. Gita Mathai
  • Published 19.05.20, 9:37 PM
  • Updated 19.05.20, 9:37 PM
  • 2 mins read
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Change your sheets often

I have itchy patches on both my elbows. It was diagnosed as eczema. I was given an ointment for external application and an antihistamine to reduce the itching. The patches disappear with treatment, only to reappear after some time.

Eczema or atopic dermatitis is very common. It tends to run in families which also have members with allergic sneezing and wheezing. These symptoms have exacerbations and remissions. There is no cure. Try avoiding harsh bathing soaps. Also, moisturise your body twice a day when there is no flare-up.

Dirty clothes

I work in an IT company. I used to take my dirty clothes home every weekend to get them laundered. Now I am stuck in my PG accommodation. How often do I need to wash clothes? Is it clean if it does not smell?

Germs don’t smell. Decomposition of sweat (by bacteria) is what makes clothes malodorous. Viruses and bacteria survive on clothes only for a few days.

Staphylococcal bacteria can cause boils on the skin. It can live on clothes for a month. Fungal spores can also thrive on damp clothes. Once you have washed clothes (preferably daily), dry them in the sun to kill any germs that survived the wash.

Also, remember that we spend at least seven hours a day in bed during which dead skin and dandruff are shed on the sheets. Mites can live on these dead cells. This can trigger itching, sneezing and aggravate acne. Sheets need to be changed once a week.

Bad breath

I have bad breath. I have tried almost all the mouthwashes on the market but nothing helps.

Sometimes, bad breath comes not from your mouth but from a postnasal drip or sinusitis.

If so, treat these conditions. Otherwise, try brushing your teeth twice a day with a little baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) on your toothbrush, followed by regular toothpaste. Rinsing out your mouth with a dilute solution of baking soda is also a cheaper alternative to using commercial mouthwash.

Sleep troubles

I am 67 years old. I find that I wake up at 2 in the morning and am unable to sleep after that. This means I am cranky the whole day.

Old people need the same amount of sleep as young ones, 7-9 hours a night. A reset of the circadian rhythm can occur with increasing age. Older people tend to fall asleep earlier at night and wake up earlier than they used to. To prevent this, try exposing yourself to sunlight in the late afternoon and going for a walk in the evening to reset your body clock.

Shot interrupted

My baby was due for her second dose of DTaP/OPV. We could not travel because of the lockdown. The interval between the doses is now more than 28 days.

As soon as it is feasible, get the second dose administered. Then 28 days later, get the third dose. Give an extra fourth dose at the age of six months.

Fatty liver

I developed pain in the centre of my abdomen just above the umbilicus. After an ultrasound scan, I was told I have a fatty liver. How is this possible? I never touch alcohol.

This condition is called NAFLH (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease). It can occur in middle-aged men and women who do not drink alcohol.

It is very common. It is likely to occur with obesity, diabetes and elevated triglycerides. It can cause damage to the internal structure of the liver, prevent it from functioning properly and eventually cause cirrhosis.

You need to check if you have any of the risk factors. You also need to be immunised against both hepatitis A and B.

The writer is a paediatrician with a family practice at Vellore and the author of Staying Healthy in Modern India. If you have any questions on health issues please write to yourhealthgm@yahoo.co.in