When my husband and I go camping, he gets eaten alive by mosquitoes unless he uses a bug spray with DEET. I hardly get bitten at all. Why is that?
— Sallie M., University Heights, Ohio
We YOU Docs are sure you’ve heard all the jokes — he’s sweeter than you are, etc. — but the difference in how often you two are bitten might be all about the microbes that live on his skin. Seems that for some of these blood-sucking insects, people with a lot of the same type of bacteria on their skin are more delicious than folks with a more complex mixture of microscopic tag-alongs. so perhaps your husband’s microbe mixture is simpler than yours. But there is another possibility: your husband drinks beer, and you don’t. Mosquitoes are known to love the smell of beer as it wafts off a suds-drinker’s body — and eagerly go in for a bite.
So what’s a target of these flying vampires to do? YOU Docs are fans of oil of lemon eucalyptus (or PMD, for para-menthane-3,8-diol, the synthesized version). It’s registered with the Environmental Protection Agency, which means it is safe and effective. One application gives two hours protection, about as much as an insect repellant with a low concentration of the chemical DEET. Alpha-Keri and Skin-So-Soft also repel insects; these products are less-effective, but easy on the skin. another non-DEET choice is Bite Blocker: It’s made with oils of geranium, soybean and coconut, and offers about an hour and a half of protection. DEET is the standard insect repellant that most effectively repels mosquitoes and is now said to be safe for children, although pregnant and breastfeeding women and infants may want to avoid it. It’s available as 4.75 percent DEET for kids and 23.8 percent DEET for adults (it lasts five hours). another solution: your husband can take a different mixture of probiotics every day to diversify his skin flora (some of what we eat populates our skin after a bit); that may also repel the skeeters.
I have a slipped disc. My husband and my doctor say I should have surgery. It scares me. Is it a smart move?
— Martha W., Indianapolis
Even the perfect 10, Bo Derek, had a slipped disc. when those gel-filled pads between your vertebrae become badly damaged and you have tingling, pain or numbness in your legs, surgery may be recommended. That’s the case for about 10 percent of people who have this condition. But we YOU Docs can tell you that a recent study from the Spine Outcomes Research Trial shows that for many people with a herniated — or slipped — disc, surgery has the best outcome. and you are double lucky, because married people who have surgery recover better than single folks.
What makes married people fare better? Seems that a happy marriage can help wound healing by reducing stress (which improves immune function), encouraging you to take better care of yourself and lowering your blood pressure.
In the meantime, there are some general rules for easing back pain that may help:
Lose weight, if you need to, by following the “YOU On a Diet” plan, which can reduce pain as it reduces your waistline.
Abandon your stilettoes, and reduce inflammation with ice and alternate with heat to relax tight muscles.
Ask your doc if there are specific exercises for you. Many, but not all, people with back problems feel better after appropriate exercise.
You’ll be surprised how soon after surgery you are back in the swing of things: often in two to four weeks — or eight to 12 weeks if you have a physically demanding job.
Every year, North Americans each chug down more than 26 gallons of bottled water in a seemingly unquenchable attempt to satisfy our thirst. That amounts to millions of plastic bottles clogging up landfills, and billions of dollars spent on what’s often no more than recycled municipal water. so we YOU docs have a tip: Eat some of your daily dose of water in fruits and vegetables. You’ll not only quench your thirst, you’ll rev up your disease-fighting powers and make your RealAge younger.
What you do drink can include plain water and juice, nonfat milk, even coffee (the diuretic effect of caffeinated beverages goes away if we drink them regularly, and 1 cup of coffee gives you about 2/3 cup of water). and remember, drink when you want to; don’t wait until you get parched.
You also can pull down 50 percent of your daily dose of H20 with fruits and vegetables. Broccoli is 92 percent water, a tomato is 94 percent and a pear 84 percent. That means one serving of broccoli (4 ounces) gives you 3 ounces of water. get your four to five cups of fruits and vegetables a day, and you’ll take in a third to a half of the recommended intake of fluids. You’ll know you’re getting enough water when your pee is pale. so set ‘em up, Jack. We’ll take a watermelon shot and a cucumber chaser, hold the ice.
Unless you are getting paid to be gross, like talk-show host Tyra Banks and singer Kelly Rowland in their on-air burping duet, chances are you wish you could keep those air-horns of gastro distress silent. Belches can come on unexpectedly. They are typically a signal that you’re swallowing too much air too quickly — from gulping down food and drink, feeling a bit nervous, drinking through a straw, chewing gum or sucking on a hard candy.
Sometimes, though, burps could signal GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), a malady that releases stomach acid up into the esophagus. and while GERD should be treated to avoid complications, mild and occasional burps generally do little harm, except to your social standing.
But if you’re one of the 24 million or more folks in North America who feel you’re losing the battle of the burp, and want them to stop now, we YOU Docs can help you make them cease and desist. here are a few smart self-care tips:
• Slow down when you eat; chew your food completely before swallowing; don’t talk during meals or exercise right after eating.
• Try drinking a teaspoon of lemon juice added to a glass of water or a cup of peppermint or chamomile tea.
• Calm down with a bit of mindful meditation; it reduces stress and slows down your breathing, which can help quiet your noisy belly. “Ohm.” A much nicer sound.
Comedian Steven Wright once deadpanned, “I’m getting an MRI tomorrow to see if I’m claustrophobic.”
Many folks — like Jennifer love Hewitt, who gets antsy in elevators, and Paris Hilton, who spent days in the medical wing of L.A.’s Twin Towers Correctional Facility when she saw the size of her jail cell — have had a negative reaction to being closed into a tight spot with no way out.
Fortunately, the condition can be diagnosed and treated quite successfully, and many health insurance plans cover the cost. The two ways claustrophobia is best managed are through the appropriate use of medications to ease anxiety and cognitive behavioral therapy — what we YOU Docs like to call “talk therapy with a homework plan.”
This form of therapy helps you learn how to reduce your fear by changing thinking patterns and handle anxiety-provoking situations by adopting new ways of reacting to them.
So call your local medical facility; both the Cleveland Clinic and new York-Presbyterian (Dr. Mike’s and Dr. Oz’s respective hospitals) have special treatment programs for anxiety disorders. In the meantime, work on managing your phobia with meditation, yoga, a healthy diet and the support of friends and family. you may be surprised at how wonderful closeness can feel.
Dwayne Wade of the Miami Heat was recently benched for foot problems. so as you ramp up your outdoor workouts, we YOU Docs want to make sure you aren’t one more candidate for foot pain — and the performance problems that come with it.
Lots of strains, sprains and pops happen when the rubber meets the road. A pair of pricey running kicks may be Err Jordan’s for you. How come? your stride is unique, like a fingerprint — and if you don’t get your sports shoes fitted properly, you can end up with joint and muscle problems from foot to shoulder.
But you can custom-fit your sports shoes to your footfall with an orthotic insert. some shoe stores have pressure-reading footfall analyzers that customize the insole of the shoe right there.
Or start your spring training with a visit to an orthopedist or podiatrist for a mold or a 3D scan of each foot. They reveal if you need more support on your arch, or if you turn your foot in or out when you stride. This can guide your doc to create a perfectly fitted insert to protect your feet and body from injury.
Dr. Oz is a fan of stretching to avoid injury: Loosen hips and hamstrings, pecs, torso and lower back. use your body weight to gently pull your body in all directions. Hold each move for about 15 seconds.
TAME SPRING ALLERGIES
If it’s hard to “Have a Nice Day,” because you’re sneezing like Bon Jovi at the Meadowlands in May, listen up. With a little smarts you can turn down the volume on your nose-orchestra. we YOU Docs want to pass along the latest how-to-feel-better news:
1. Make a stay-strong grocery list. dark leafy vegetables, 100 percent whole grains, unsaturated fats and lean protein boost immune strength. and avoid pollen allergy co-conspirators: 70 percent of those with allergies to birch or alder trees also get an itchy, swollen mouth from celery, cherries and apples. and 20 percent with a grass allergy react to tomatoes, potatoes or peaches. Cooking them may quell irritants, or leave them off your menu.
2. get a great air filter. Whole-house systems with HEPA air filters are most effective. Stand-alone room filters have to pump out a lot of pollen-free air to make a difference, but do help.
3. Create a safe zone — the bedroom. Shut windows to minimize pollen on upholstered furniture and surfaces. Take shoes off at the doorway, and keep pets out — their coats can get loaded with pollen. Avoid compounding seasonal allergies with a dust mite allergy: use 1 micron allergy-proof pillow cases and mattress pads.
4. Stay fresh. Take a shower and wash your hair before bed to remove accumulated pollen.
5. get an allergy checkup to ID what’s getting you. Consider allergy shots to reduce sensitivity to specific pollens. Also consider antihistamines, if needed. then head out for a healthy dose of springtime physical activity.
(c) 2012 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.
You Docs: Why do mosquitoes target husband?