The Doctors go coast to coast to answer health questions from all 50 states!
• This will be my first winter in the "Last Frontier," and I'm curious about the difference between frostbite and frostnip. When should I worry? -- Colleen from Juneau, AlaskaE.R. physician Dr. Travis Stork explains the difference between frostbite and frostnip.• In a dry climate, can you get as dehydrated during the winter as you can during the summer? -- Carlos from Phoenix, ArizonaDr. Travis explains why dehydration occurs and why you need to take precautions in the winter.
• What are some good foods to ward off winter health ailments? -- Michigan
Citrus fruits, probiotics, pumpkin, garlic, mushroom, broccoli, green tea, fish and blueberries can help fight winter sicknesses.
• Why does my psoriasis worsen in the winter? -- Rhode Island
Psoriasis, a common skin disorder that causes irritation and redness, can worsen in the winter because of the drier air and lower levels of exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays.
• Last year, right before finals, I got hives. I was on two different histamine blockers. Could it have been stress? -- Shayla from Wichita, Kansas
Dr. Lisa explains what may have caused Shayla's hives.
• Are hives contagious? -- Kentucky
No, hives, which are swollen and often itchy welts on the surface of the skin, are usually an allergic reaction, but even if they are caused by a virusl, they are still not contagious.
• How often should women get pap smears? -- Arkansas
Women should get a pap smear every one to three years, depending on their age and medical history.
• Is there a male equivalent to a pap smear? -- Comedienne Kathy Griffin, from the red carpet in CaliforniaYes there is, and Dr. Lisa shares the answer.
• My second daughter was born four weeks ago and has not gained any weight since she was discharged from the hospital. I'm breastfeeding her. Could my breast milk be deficient? - Stephanie from Cranford, New Jersey
Most newborns will lose a few ounces right after birth, but it is important that they regain the lost weight within a week or, at longest, two weeks of age, pediatrician Dr. Jim Sears explains.
"Your baby is already four weeks old and hasn't regained [the weight she's lost since birth], and I'm worried about that," he says. "First off, you need to make sure your doctor is checking the baby. Make sure the baby looks OK, and then your doctor and maybe a lactation consultant can check your milk supply by pumping [the breasts] or weighing the baby before and after feeding, to see if you're making enough milk. If you aren't, we may want to supplement with a little formula, just to get the baby back up to birth weight, because it's really important that she does that to stay healthy."
• I have noticed that after breastfeeding my son, I had a dramatic decrease in breast volume. Now, when I finish breastfeeding my daughter, I have a feeling I'll have the same problem. Is there anything I can do to fix that without having breast implants? --Christina from Houston, TexasPlastic surgeon Dr. Drew Ordon explains Christina's options to restore her breasts.
Flu and Pneumonia
• Can you be a flu carrier and not get sick? -- Diane from Wilmington, DelawareYou can be a carrier of the flu virus without having any symptoms. E.R. physician Dr. Travis Stork says that if you are not showing symptoms of the flu, chances are unlikely that you will pass it on to others.
• Can the dog flu migrate to humans like the H1N1 virus? -- New York
H3N8 is an equine flu virus that has recently been found in dogs. It is very contagious -- dogs can catch it at dog parks and boarding kennels. The virus can live in food and water dishes. "The good news is this," Dr. Travis says. "Humans can't get it."
Five to eight percent of dogs will get a severe form of this flu, and older dogs and puppies can potentially die from it. Symptoms in dogs are similar to those of humans who get the seasonal flu: coughing, fever and loss of appetite. Breeds with pushed-in faces, such as pugs and bulldogs, are the most susceptible to the H3N8 virus.
• Is the pneumonia vaccine a one-time event? And, how effective is it? -- Phillip from Bismark, North Dakota
There are multiple versions of the pneumococcal vaccine. The one given to children, known as Prevnar or PCV7, requires a series of four doses be administered before the child is 5 years old. For adults, the vaccine is known as PPSV, and any adult over age 65 should get one dose of it. Additionally, people who have asthma, diabetes, HIV, immune issues or have had their spleen removed should get two doses, five years apart.
• [My 11-year-old son] is always stuffed up, and when he talks, he sounds like he has nose plugs on. Even when he blows his nose, it doesn't help. I am curious as to what causes this and what could be done to help him. -- Terri from Parker, Colorado
"It sounds like your son has rhinitis," Dr. Ordon says, "which is just an inflammation of the inside of the nose. What happens is that it gets congested, it over-stimulates the mucus glands [and causes] too much production of the normal nasal secretions."
She says that her son does not have allergy problems, and Dr. Ordon explains that Terri's son may have non-allergic rhinitis, which can be triggered by changes in temperature and weather, odors, certain foods and other environmental factors. Dr. Ordon says that non-allergic rhinitis can be treated with over-the-counter decongestants, but if it continues after taking medication, he should see a doctor for more testing. If the problem is ignored, the inflammation can lead to nasal polyps, which form inside the sinuses and nasal linings, and require surgical removal.
• I do a lot of flying, and I have had sinus infections in the past. I have heard you shouldn't go flying when you have a sinus infection. Is this true? - Jerry from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Dr. Ordon explains why you should avoid flying when you have a sinus infection.
• I think I may have a deviated septum. What are the signs? - MississippiSigns are obstruction in the nostrils, nasal congestion, nosebleeds, recurring sinus infections and loud breathing.
• Is there a natural way to help minor sinus congestion? -- North Carolina
To alleviate minor sinus congestion, irrigate the sinuses with a saline solution, you can use a Neti pot for this, and use a humidifier.
Healing• Does drinking alcohol interfere with the healing process of the body? I.e. someone who has the cold, flu or another illness? -- Alia from Honolulu, Hawaii
"Alcohol can interfere with the healing process," E.R. physician Dr. Travis Stork says. "But here's what's important: In moderation, alcohol does not affect your immune system. So if you have that glass of wine or glass of beer with dinner, no problem there. But this is the big issue: Beyond three glasses, it starts to affect your white blood cells, just like excess sugar, and then your immune system goes down. Here's the theory I like to use: enough to intoxicate, enough to suppress your immunity."
In addition to diminishing your immune system, drinking alcohol before surgery can affect the healing process.