50 Questions from 50 Cities

From Los Angeles to New Delhi, The Doctors answers 50 questions from 50 cities around the globe.

" Could triplets come out as identical twin boys and a girl?" - Lance, Miles and Jordan, Chester, Illinois

"How far can a pumping human heart squirt blood?" - Gretchen, Casper, Wyoming

"What happens to [firefighters'] hearts when we go from a dead sleep to being forced wide awake by the fire alarm?" - Shereeta and Fire Co., Suffolk, Virginia

"Is it true natural redheads need more anesthesia for surgery?" - Callie, Bangor, Maine

Researchers from the University of Louisville studied the anesthetic response of 10 redheaded and 10 brunette females who were given the standard general anesthetic, desflurane. They determined that roughly 20 percent more anesthetic was required, on average, for the redheads compared to other women.

Red hair is associated with specific mutations on the melanocortin-1 receptor gene (MC1R), which may be involved with complex neuromodulatory regulation within the central nervous system. This finding implies that different genotypes and phenotypes may manifest different responses to common drugs.

"My eyes have always been brown. Why are they now changing to green?" - Cindy, Francis, Utah

Dry Eye

"I constantly have dry, strained eyes, irrespective of the season. I've [stopped using] cosmetics, but that doesn't change anything. Can you help?" - Marta, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Plastic surgeon Dr. Drew Ordon explains dry eye is a condition where the eyes don't produce enough tears or the right quality of tears. Tears are made up of three layers: oil, water, and protein. With dry eye, you may have an imbalance with the quality and quantity.

Tips for year-round eye comfort:
• Try artificial tears: Your ophthalmologist can help you choose the right type.
• Add salmon or flaxseed to your diet: Recent research shows that increasing your intake of omega-3 fatty acids may act as a buffer against dry eye.

• Use a humidifier year-round.

Eye color fully matures in infancy and remains the same for life, but in a small percentage of adults, eye color can naturally become either noticeably darker or lighter with age. This occurs most often in people with brown eyes, which can turn into a hazel-green color.

"Should I be worried about germs from the money I put in my bra?" - Althea, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Scientists have been studying the germs on money for more than 100 years, and in an Australian study, researchers compared the germ populations found on bills from 10 different nations and found that US dollars were the most likely to carry E. coli. While further research needs to be conducted, paper money has been found to harbor germs, so it is important to wash your hands after handling it. For women who want to carry extra cash in their lingerie, use a Rack Trap, a wallet for your bra.

My sneezes sometimes get stuck, and I have this have-to-sneeze sensation all day. What gives?" Kadie, Oak Harbor, Washington

The best thing to do is to see an allergist and find out what is causing your symptoms. The main chemical released in the body after an allergic reaction is histamine, which can cause sneezing, itching, congestion and runny nose.

My 14 month-old daughter has had three UTIs, and I wonder if it's safe to give her cranberry tablets to prevent more?" - Candice, Arthur, Ontario, Canada

Pediatrician Dr. Jim Sears recommends drinking 3 cups of cranberry juice a day in addition to antibiotics for children and adults. This juice has a substance in it that prevents the bacteria from sticking to the bladder, thus allowing the bladder to more easily flush it out. Cran-apple or other cranberry mixes can work as well, but 100 percent, unsweetened cranberry juice is best.

"Can stretch marks burst?" - Joni, American Falls, Idaho

It's unlikely that your stretch marks will burst, but they can tear and bleed, depending on where they are, how old they are and how thin the skin is in that area. Keeping stretch marks and the skin around them moisturized and supported will prevent chafing and the risk of tearing and bleeding. The Fractional CO2 Laser treatment is also an option for erasing the appearance of stretch marks.

"What foods have
hidden sugars?
- Roxanne, Miami, Florida;
Zack, Duragno, Colorado;
Layla, Pierre, South Dakota

"Why and how do strawberries whiten teeth?"
- Victoria, 
Plant City, Florida

"What are the best foods to get [the nutrients] we're missing?" - The Newcomb Family, New York, New York; Honolulu, Hawaii;
Dallas, Texas and
Hong Kong, China.

Can certain foods be healthier for you when paired together?" - Reina, Mexico City, Mexico

Yes. Combining foods that have digestive chemistry can give your health an extra boost. Use these food combinations to fend off heart disease, cancer and more with every meal.

"How many taste buds are in the human mouth?" - Deirdre, Lexington, Kentucky

At birth, we have about 10,000 taste buds, but after age 50, we may start to lose them. In general, females have more taste buds than males, and the average life of a taste bud is five days.

5-Minute Health Fixes

Got five minutes? Get healthy with The Doctors' book,The Doctors 5-Minute Health Fixes: The Prescription for a Lifetime of Great Health !

"My boyfriend is a clean freak, except about rinsing dishes. I say hot water; he says use cold to save money. What's healthiest?" - Lynn, Aiken, South Carolina

Water temperature when washing dishes should be very hot to properly kill germs and bacteria. Try to get the water hot enough so that it is uncomfortable for your bare hands to be submerged for very long. Your hands probably can't tolerate water over 110 to 115 degrees. To help you use the hottest water possible, try wearing dishwashing gloves to protect your hands and allow you to use water at the proper temperature. Remember to change the water when it becomes dirty and cold, and remember that rinsing water should ideally be around 170 degrees to ensure that dishes will air dry quickly to reduce streaks and spots.

"My 13-month-old son won't let us brush his teeth! Is this posing a hazard to his developing teeth and gums?" - Carrie, Auckland, New Zealand

Your child's primary teeth hold the right spaces for the secondary, or permanent teeth. Healthy first teeth also contribute to proper alignment of the jawbones and eventual bite. Don't expect children under 3 to clean their teeth well on their own, as your hand needs to be on the toothbrush guiding them. But letting your toddler hold the brush while you clean helps his or her acceptance of the routine. Also, begin with the front teeth and ease toward the molars since children often protest brushing their back teeth for fear of choking. Dr. Sears also recommends making a game out of it by singing a song or trying to get "the sugar bugs off!"

Brushing tips for kids.

"Is it safe to use the morning-after pill the night before?" - Dana, Las Cruces, New Mexico

The morning-after pill should not be used as a contraceptive and only in emergency situations. Taking a morning-after pill at the time of intercourse is not as effective as long term contraceptives such as patches or regular birth control pills.

"Is there any new help for hot flashes?" - Paula, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

A new product called the Shield Life Cool Pad may be the help you're looking for! This versatile cooling pad draws heat from your body keeping it cool without the environmental impact of using electricity or batteries. The Cool Pad's cooling crystals absorb heat through conduction and convection, maximizing the heat exchanged between the Cool Pad and your body. 

"Dr. Sears, how did wax get in my ears?" - Brianni, Los Angeles, California

"When I was young, we use to have chickenpox parties. It worked for me, but should I do the same for my own children?" - Clare, Blackburn, England

A chickenpox party is when a child spends time with other children infected with the virus in order to contract it themselves and gain immunity. Dr. Sears says it's not possible to predict who will have a mild case of chickenpox and who will have a serious or even deadly case of the virus. Now that there is a safe and effective vaccine, it is not worth taking this chance. About one in 10 unvaccinated children who get the disease will have a complication from chickenpox serious enough to visit a health-care provider. In vaccinated children, chickenpox illness is typically mild, producing no symptoms at all, other than a few red bumps.

Quick Q and A

Q: "Why do we need Vitamin K?" - Fresno, California
A: Vitamin K can prevent heart disease, osteoporosis and cancer.

Q: Why do dentists pull wisdom teeth?" - Ft. Smith, Arkansas
A: Wisdom teeth rarely grow in straight and healthy.

Q. What's the recovery time for an adult tonsillectomy?" - Salisbury, Maryland
A: Between 10 and 20 days.

Q:  Do new babies shed tears? - Kennewick, Washington
A:  Babies don't develop tear ducts until 8 months old.

Q:  How many calories can I burn vacuuming? - Sioux City, Iowa
A:  Up to 3.7 calories a minute.

Q:  Can I prevent tears while chopping onions? - Alpena, Michigan
A:  Chewing gum may reduce tears.

Q:  Does a vasectomy reduce a man's sex drive? - Reno, Nevada
A:  It does not.

Q:  Is reading in low light risky? - Roanoke, Virginia
A:  It may strain your eyes but won't ruin your eyesight.

Q:  How many calories does Tai Chi burn? - Wheeling, West Virginia
A:  Up to 255 calories an hour.

Q:  Can I remove mold from cheese and eat the rest? - Lufkin, Texas
A:  Hard cheeses, yes, soft cheeses, no.

Q: How is hepatitis C diagnosed? - Watertown, New York
A:  Only with a blood test.

Q: Which spiders don't bite? - Peoria, Illinois
A:  All spiders will bite if they are in danger.

Q:  Do strawberries help prevent esophageal cancer? - Aspen, Colorado
A:  Yes, in preliminary studies.

Q:  Is high blood pressure genetic? - Lima, Ohio
A:  Yes, one form of it can be.

Q:  How much sleep does a 2-year-old need? - Lubbock, Texas
A:  At least 12 hours a day, including naps.

"Can swaddling [a baby] inhibit motor development?" - Nancy, Bismarck, North Dakota

Swaddling is a blanketing technigue where the baby is wrapped-up snuggly and is often used to help relax the infant when he or she is over stimulated or in need of some security. But once your baby is about a month old, you might want to stop swaddling while he or she is awake, as it may interfere with mobility and development. It's fine to keep swaddling your baby for naps and nighttime if he or she seems to sleep better that way, but if he or she starts crying and kicking, that may be a hint to stop the bundling.

"I'm going on a trip. How long before my immunizations kick in?" - Anonymous,  Lebanon

Ideally, set up an appointment with your doctor four to six weeks before your trip. Most vaccines take time to become effective in your body, and some must be given in a series over a period of days or weeks. If it is less than four weeks before you leave, you should still see your doctor, as you might still benefit from shots or medications and other information about how to protect yourself from things like hepatitis A, typhoid, rabies, yellow fever or Japanese encephalitis.

"How long should a cut take to heal?" -  Louise, Anchorage, Alaska

ER physician Dr. Travis Stork says that time for healing a cut varies and depends on the following factors:
• Size of the cut: If it is too deep and large, stitches may be needed.
• If it is infected: This can slow down the healing process.
• The person: Some people heal faster than others.
• Health problems: Diabetes and obesity are common causes of slow wound healing.
• Age: Wound healing time increases with age.
• Location of the cut: Areas that move or are more sensitive require more time to heal.

"How do lubricants affect fertility?" - Megan, Houston, Texas

Up to half of sexually active couples use some kind of vaginal lubricant during intercourse. Unfortunately, there is now reason to believe that many of these lubricants have harmful effects on sperm, thus potentially reducing the chance of conceiving. Nearly all commonly used lubricants have been reported to decrease sperm movement and function. "Is penis size hereditary?" - Janelle, Hartford, Connecticut

OB-GYN Dr. Lisa Masterson explains that penises come in different sizes, shapes, and colors. These traits are hereditary, like eye color or foot size, and there's nothing you can do to change them. Despite what you may hear or read, no special exercises, supplements or diets will speed up the development process or change the size.

"How can I train my young son to swallow pills?" - Andie, Livonia, Michigan

Let him take a few sips of water before the pill goes in, as a dry mouth makes swallowing tougher. Don't toss the head back since that actually closes the esophagus. Instead, have him slide the pill to the back of his mouth, slightly dip your child's chin toward his or her chest and take a sip of water. If the pill feels stuck or is going down too slowly, encourage him or her to keep drinking. It won't take long before that feeling disappears. Choose capsules over tablets, if possible, and try practicing with tiny bits of food.

"In second grade, a boy stabbed my cheek with a pencil. Should I have the lead removed?" - Whitney, Milton, Florida

Pencil lead is actually a harmless substance called graphite, not poisonous lead, so removal is not necessary. Even colored leads are nontoxic.