Question: I have had hay fever for some time, but it usually lasted about a month and then disappeared. Now I seem to have it all the time. Is it more likely that I just have a lengthy cold, or can a person have hay fever for a few months?
Answer: It is possible that you have an allergic condition other than hay fever. Hay fever (or seasonal allergic rhinitis) most often occurs in response to pollen from trees, grasses or weeds. Therefore, when the weather becomes cold, the allergy subsides and the patient can look forward to an allergy-free period.
What you might have, however, is perennial allergic rhinitis, which can be triggered by a variety of irritants, including mold spores, feathers and animal dander. These can cause an allergic individual to be bothered by symptoms throughout the year.
Q: Can you tell me what causes a child to vomit?
A: There are so many possible answers to your question that a complete response is impossible. Before being able to identify the cause of vomiting, it would be necessary to know when it occurs in relation to meals, the time of day and similar factors.
Dr. William M. Michener of Cleveland Clinic Hospital points out that in a teen-age girl, vomiting may be a sign of pregnancy. However, it may also be caused by a milk allergy, an ulcer or a host of other conditions.
As you can see, pinpointing the cause of vomiting in a specific child is not always an easy task. It usually requires a careful history and possibly one or more diagnostic tests.
Q: Would you please let me know what causes schizophrenia? An aunt of mine came down with it, but as far as I know no one else in the family has ever had it. Does it make any difference that it seemed to come on without any warning?
A: The cause of schizophrenia has still not been determined, although a number of theories have been advanced. These include a psychological basis and an organic basis, among others. Schizophrenia that occurs in an acute fashion appears to have a more favorable prognosis than when the condition gradually develops.
Q: Since I changed my job and began working on a video display terminal, my eyes always feel very tired. Has anyone ever checked into these things to find out whether the people using them are suffering any serious damage to the eyes?
A: The American Academy of Ophthalmology has reported that there is no evidence that the use of video display terminals causes any permanent damage to the eyes. However, it may be possible to reduce or eliminate the eye fatigue you are experiencing by using a screen that projects a clearer image, or by adjusting the brightness or contrast on the screen. Changing your work station to reduce glare may also prove helpful.
I would also suggest that you arrange an appointment with an ophthalmologist to make certain there are no problems unrelated to your employment.
Q: Many of the illnesses that children usually get, such as measles, are called childhood diseases. This seems to suggest that the diseases are not very important, and I think that that is misleading. When I registered my youngster for school, I was asked about his childhood diseases, but the school nurse and teacher didn't seem to pay much attention to them. I wonder if I might have your opinion on this.
A: Many childhood diseases cause only temporary discomfort; however, others, such as polio, can have devastating consequences. The same is true of diphtheria, whooping cough and other illnesses commonly associated with childhood. A "childhood" disease is not necessarily a "minor" disease, and I believe that school personnel are generally aware of this. That is why vaccination is often a requirement before children are allowed to enroll in school.
Q: There appears to be an emphasis on reducing the amount of red meat in the diet. As I understand it, the purpose of this is to cut down on the amount of fat a person ingests. But don't dairy products provide as much fat as red meat?
A: In the United States, meat is the largest source of dietary fat.
Q: Why does eating make a person who has an ulcer feel better for a while? I know that when I eat, I may not have any discomfort for as long as an hour or so.
A: When an ulcer patient eats, the food coats the stomach and thus provides protection against the acid. As you note in your letter, the pain will tend to ease for an hour or two after the meal.