I have always cleaned my baby's ears with cotton swabs after a bath to remove the water inside and excess wax. But I read that their use in the ears of children is not recommended at all. Is this true? Is there any specific age for this prohibition, or is it also relevant for older children and adults as well?
- D.N.P, Rehovot
Dr. Jean-Yves Sichel, head of the otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat) department at Jerusalem's Shaare Zedek Medical Center, replies:
We otolaryngologists don't recommend using cotton swabs in anyone's ears. There is a natural mechanism in the outer ear that pushes cerumen (ear wax) out. Ear wax protects the ear. If you see wax in the outer ear, you can carefully remove it if you insist, but never stick in a swab beyond that, as it will push it deeper, pack it into the ear and may scratch delicate tissue and cause infections. We often see evidence of such harm.
If you cannot hear well because wax clogs the ear, go to an ear-nose-and-throat specialist who has equipment that washes and vacuums the wax out. Personally, I have never used a cotton swab in my life.
I am a 72-year-old man who is active and exercises regularly but suffers for over 10 years from endless phlegm attacks in my throat a few times each year, each time lasting weeks. When this happens, I cough up mucus hundreds of times a day, as though I have a mucus machine inside. In between those attacks, phlegm never leaves me. I've been to many doctors, taken pills for infection and allergies and different nasal sprays. An allergy test showed a slight plus for house dust. My specialists say nothing can be done. Can nothing help me?
- S.B., Jerusalem
Dr. Sichel answers this one too:
Your problem may be chronic bronchitis; go to a lung specialist to check it out. It could also be chronic reflux, in which acid rises from your stomach and up the esophagus into the throat; check with a gastroenterologist, as this can be treated too. If these are not causing the problem, it could be a chronic condition, and some people have more phlegm than others. Having lots of phlegm is a condition, not a disease, and it is not well defined. Unfortunately, in some cases, it cannot be relieved.
I am a 29-year-old woman and have suffered from post-coital bleeding for a few months. I was sent for an ultrasound and a Pap smear, the results of which showed that everything was normal. The bleeding continued. Eventually I had a biopsy performed which showed that I had CIN(II) (cervical intraepithelial neoplasia).
I was advised to have a colposcopy. In the interim I found out that I was pregnant. I am now in the 11th week; I do not want to risk my pregnancy by having this procedure. Your advice would be appreciated.
- B.H., Tel Aviv.
Prof. Uzi Beller, head of Shaare Zedek Medical Center's gynecological surgery and oncology unit in Jerusalem, replies:
You should have the colposcopy and, if needed, a biopsy by an experienced colposcopist. If everything is OK, treatment can be delayed to follow the delivery.
Jessica Fischer of Michmoret offers a harmless and potentially beneficial tip on treating skin burns that result from handling hot peppers:
I bought some of those long peppers to stuff with cheese for the holiday after asking the greengrocer if they were sweet. He assured me that they were not the hot variety, so I bought them. Within minutes of cleaning and filling them, my hands started to burn! Washing them and putting ice on didn't help, so I looked on the Internet and found a site that recommended slathering with sour cream. I used 1.5 percent yogurt and within a few hours of the second application, the burning was gone.
Rx for Readers welcomes queries from readers about medical problems. Experts will answer those we find most interesting. Write Rx for Readers, The Jerusalem Post, POB 81, Jerusalem 91000, fax your question to Judy Siegel-Itzkovich at (02) 538-9527, or e-mail it to email@example.com, giving your initials, age and residence.