Questions on Health

1. Question

When a mosquito bites me, I get big, coin-sized welts. Is this normal?

Answer

A “normal” reaction to a mosquito bite can vary. Some people will have only a small area of redness, swelling and itching that typically goes away within 24 hours. Others may have a larger area of itching — sometimes the size of a grapefruit in highly sensitive individuals — that can last for several days.

Rarely, an individual may have a serious reaction to mosquito bites, which results in swelling in the throat, hives and wheezing. This life-threatening condition (anaphylaxis) requires immediate medical attention.

If you’re sensitive to mosquito bites, the best advice is to avoid getting bitten. Follow these common-sense precautions:

  •  Avoid areas, such as wet slushy areas, where mosquito activity is highest.
  •  Avoid going outside when mosquitoes are most active, such as at dusk and dawn and after rain.
  •  Wear protective clothing when outside.
  •  Use insect repellent.

To relieve the itching of a bite, apply a lotion containing calamine. If you have a large local reaction, consider taking an over-the-counter anti-allergic tablet/syrup to see if it helps. Consult your doctor if you’re concerned about the severity of your reaction.

2. Peanut allergy: Can a child outgrow it?

Question

Can a child outgrow a peanut allergy?

Answer

Yes. About 20 percent to 25 percent of children with peanut allergy will outgrow it. But there is a small risk it will return. Peanut allergy affects 1 percent to 2 percent of young children and is the most common cause of anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction.

It’s difficult to predict which children will outgrow peanut allergy. Some research suggests that children with lower levels of peanut allergy-specific antibodies (IgE) may be more likely to outgrow peanut allergy than children with higher levels of these antibodies. IgE is measured by a blood test.

Even when a child appears to outgrow peanut allergy, there is a small risk it will recur.

3. Blood sugar and mood: Any connection?

Question

My 15-year-old son has diabetes. When his blood sugar is low, he seems depressed. When his blood sugar is high, he’s often agitated and short-tempered. Is there any connection between blood sugar level and mood?

Answer

Fluctuations in blood sugar levels can be associated with changes in mood. However, this typically occurs only with extremely high or low blood sugar levels.

It’s important to remember that many factors can contribute to mood changes in people who have diabetes. It can take time to adjust emotionally to a diabetes diagnosis, as well as the need to manage the disease. This adjustment can be especially challenging during adolescence.

Check and record his blood sugar level consistently — and specifically when you notice a mood change. If your son’s mood swings occur often or become a persistent problem, consult his doctor. The information in your son’s blood sugar record may help the doctor make adjustments to your son’s diabetes treatment plan, if needed.

4.  Body shape: Does it increase your risk of diabetes?

Question

I know that obesity is a risk factor for diabetes. But I’ve been told that body shape also plays a role. Is this true?

Answer

Yes, it’s true. People who carry most of their excess weight around their waist (often called “apples”) are at greater risk of diabetes than are those who carry most of their excess weight below their waist (often called “pears”).

The more fatty tissue you have, the more resistant your body’s cells become to the effects of your own insulin. But this appears especially true if your weight is concentrated around your abdomen.

To determine whether you’re carrying too much weight around your abdomen, measure the circumference of your waist at its smallest point, usually at the level of your navel. Using a flexible, cloth-like tape measure is best. A measurement of more than 40 inches in men and more than 35 inches in women indicates increased health risks.

The good news is that you can lower your risk of diabetes by achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.