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Your Health Questions Answered by Top Medical Experts

Should I get a flu shot?  Can ear buds make my kids deaf?  Does low vitamin D make you sick?  You don’t need to waste another second wondering and worrying. We’ve got the definitive answers right here.

Q:  Does the flu shot work?  

A:  “The influenza vaccine, a.k.a. the flu shot, is still the greatest strategy to help prevent the flu and to control large population outbreaks,” according to Dr. Leslie Pidgeon, an emergency physician.  “Scientists design the annual Influenza vaccine by examining trends and possibilities for the upcoming year. This year has already shown that the prominent viral strain has already mutated, leaving the vaccine far less helpful than we would like.  But, we have learned that even a close cousin to this year’s strain is better than none and may help shorten the course of illness or weaken the severity of the flu.”  She says the vaccine is especially important for those who are at a very high risk of illness or dying from the flu.  “When we prevent the spread of influenza to protect ourselves, we also protect our families and our communities.”

Q: How do I know if it’s the flu or just another bug?

A: “A specific test for influenza can diagnose if it’s the flu or another virus,” says Dr. Pidgeon.  “If you have the signs and symptoms of Influenza, your medical provider may elect to begin treatment with antiviral medication, such as Tamiflu, even without a positive rapid influenza screen because it works best within 48 hours of your first symptoms.  She warns, “The antiviral medications do not kill the virus bug per se, they can only keep the virus from replicating as rapidly, thus from becoming more severe and hopefully by shortening our length of illness by a few days.”

Q: If I do get the flu, how long am I contagious?

A: “That’s the question I get most often,” says Dr. Pidgeon.  “It is so hard for us to stay home in our busy lives, to get the rest we really need to recover and to keep the flu virus from spreading.”  She says you can be contagious from 24 hours before you have your first sniffle to up to seven days after symptoms begin, and cautions that droplets from coughing or talking can spread up to seven feet!

For further information, consult the CDC


Q:  What is all the fuss about Vitamin D?  Is it important?  

A: “Vitamin D is very important,” says Dr. Sandy Gluckman, founder of ParentsTakeCharge.com, where she focuses on drug-free treatment solutions for teen learning and behavior challenges.  “Actually, Vitamin D is not a vitamin.  It is really a hormone that we make on our skin from sun exposure.  It’s important to know it’s a hormone because this tells us that, exactly like other hormones, having Vitamin D in the right balance is essential for our bodies and brains to function properly. Vitamin D is crucial for bone, skin and mental health, helps prevent seventeen types of cancer and plays a role in almost every major disease.

Dr. Gluckman notes that Vitamin D deficiency is rampant. “Low D levels have long been associated with higher incidence of depression and memory problems.  Worldwide, it is estimated that the epidemic of Vitamin D deficiency affects one billion people. The only one way to know if you or your children are deficient or insufficient is by blood testing.

For more information, visit Dr. Sandy at ParentsTakeCharge.com

Q: My 13-year-old seems to have ear buds glued to his ears.  Could this impact his hearing long term?

A:  Ear buds are basically a pair of tiny speakers that you wear inside your ears.  Loud music playing that close to your eardrum can cause permanent hearing loss.  “Because ear buds play in the ear canal, they can increase the sound volume by several decibels.  To stay safe, follow the 60/60 rule: no more than 60% of maximum volume for no more than 60 minutes”, says Brenda Bliss, MS, CCC-SLP/A, LSLS Cert. AVT, Director of Bliss Speech and Hearing Services.


Q: My child has never had a cavity.  Do I still need to worry?

A: “In my practice, I often see children who had no cavities in elementary school develop cavity problems in their teen years,” says Dr. Terri E. Train, DDS, MS, a pediatric dentist with Children’s Dental Specialists. “Tweens and teens have more autonomy to choose their diet and have more responsibility for their own dental hygiene. The mix of junk food and sugary drinks including soda, Gatorade, and sweet tea coupled with less parental supervision during brushing can be a double-whammy on teenage teeth.” Train suggests sticking to a regular schedule of dental check ups (every 6 months) to ensure that older kids get a refresher course on proper brushing and hygiene, and allow their dentist to catch problems early.  Train adds, “Sealants, which are a plastic coating that acts as a barrier to protect the chewing surface of teeth, also can really help at this age as a way to prevent cavities.”

For more information on sealants or dental care, go to ChildrensDentalSpecialists.com

Q: I regret the tattoo I got in my twenties.  Is it possible to remove it without scarring?

A:  The answer is, “Yes, excluding skin that keloids or rare exceptions,” says Houston physician, Dr. Clay Cessna, who also owns Blank Slate Laser, a laser and skin clinic.  “The process is affected by several factors including skin type, how the ink was applied, colors used and how your skin responds.  Some tattoos can be removed in just a few sessions, while others may require 8-10 treatments or more.  Darks colors, particularly black ink, is the easiest to remove, followed by reds and browns. Blues and greens are the most difficult to treat, but our laser effectively fades even those difficult colors.”   Removal can be pricey – about 10 times the cost of the tattoo.  But, the good news is that the procedure takes only a few seconds to a few minutes (depending on size) and a cooling devise makes the treatment “very tolerable for most people,” says Dr. Cessna.  He recommends a minimum of six to eight weeks between treatments to allow for adequate healing and ink fading.  “Most patients experience some redness, swelling, and minor blistering of the skin after a laser treatment. These side effects are temporary and your skin will heal back completely.”

For more information: www.blankslatelaser.com

Have Questions?  Let us find the answers!  Email your questions to: Tricia@GoodLifeFamilyMag.com

Are you a medical expert or have an opinion to share?  We want to hear from you!

Email us at: Tricia@GoodLifeFamilyMag.com

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