Dr Flo, I am worried about my health. I suffer from recurrent colds and my nose is always runny. When treated, I recover for a short while before the cold strikes again. Sometimes I feel so weak. What do I do? Rhoda
The recurring colds could be an indicator that your immune system is weak.
This may be due to stress, poor nutrition, lack of exercise, not getting enough sleep, chronic illnesses, some medications like steroid medications and chemotherapy medication. If any of these could be an issue, addressing the root problem will lead to a stronger immune system and less colds.
The recurring colds could also be due to allergic rhinitis. This means that you body’s immune process responds strongly to triggers like dust, strong smells and cold, causing your respiratory system to overreact. This leads to sneezing, runny nose and blocked nose.
This can be hereditary, passed from parents to children, or associated with other allergy conditions like allergic skin rashes, allergic cough, recurrent itching of the eyes (allergic conjunctivitis) and asthma. You may have one or a combination of several of them.
The condition cannot be cured but it can be controlled by avoiding the triggers, like cold, dust, strong smells, pollen and smoke, and also by taking anti-allergy medicines or anti-histamines. Nasal sprays can also be used.
Lastly, when you have a cold, you can easily become dehydrated, which would make you feel weak and tired. So take plenty of fluids.
Dr Flo, I am 29. Since 2014, I have been getting swellings on my genitals that are similar to the blisters that appear after a burn. They usually burst and leave wounds behind. It starts with an itch, then the blisters appear, usually around the tip of my penis and the balls. Thereafter, I develop wounds on my fingers and my upper lip. After the wounds heal, the affected parts turn grey, then a shiny black. My partner has never complained of suffering from this ailment. I have gone for several tests, but none has been positive. Might you know what I’m suffering from? I’m worried. Ben
You are most likely suffering from herpes. There are different types of herpes infections, and the one that most commonly causes symptoms around the genitals is herpes simplex type 2. In a few instances, you may get similar symptoms with type 1, which most commonly causes sores around the mouth and nose (cold sores).
Genital herpes is very common, and is passed from one person to the other though sexual contact and through skin-to-skin contact. In many cases, once the virus is in the body, it remains dormant for a long time.
Once in a while, it can be reactivated and travel back to the skin, where it may or may not cause symptoms. It is usually reactivated when the immune system is weakened due to physical or emotional stress e.g. due to fatigue, poor diet, illness, hormonal changes, severe injury, surgery, or stress.
In most people, it causes no symptoms or causes very mild ones, though these people can still spread the virus. When symptoms occur, small blisters form, which eventually break open and leave a wound.
The wound heals within a few weeks leaving a scab. You may also get cracked or red areas around the genitals, itchiness or tingling, fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes and fatigue.
Get a blood test done to test for herpes. If it is positive, there is no cure, but symptoms can be managed with anti-viral treatment (tablets and cream), painkillers when necessary, cleaning the affected areas with warm salty water twice a day and letting air circulate around the sores by wearing loose-fitting clothes.
Symptoms recur about four to five times a year initially, and then reduce with time as the body builds up more immunity against the virus.
To avoid passing the virus to others, do not kiss when you have oral sores; avoid sexual contact when you have sores and wash your hands with soap and water after touching infected areas. In case you wear contact lenses, do not wet the lenses with your saliva.
Dr Flo, I am 22 years old. I have thick white vaginal discharge that is sometimes smelly, and sometimes it is accompanied by itching. My menses are usually heavy. Is this normal? Christine
It is normal for all women after puberty to have a vaginal discharge. It is a mixture of fluid and cells that help to keep the vagina clean and moist and to prevent infection. The appearance changes depending on the menstrual cycle, and can also be affected by exercise, stress, use of hormonal medication and sexual arousal. The discharge may vary from white to clear, and from watery to thick, at different times of the cycle. It is also normal to have a brown or bloody discharge just before, during or after your periods, or sometimes in between your periods (spotting).
If there is abnormal colour (yellow, green, sometimes white), itching, a foul smell, or thick, chunky discharge, then most likely there is a vaginal infection.
The infection may be caused by fungi, bacteria or other organisms. To know the actual cause of the abnormal discharge, it would be advisable to visit a doctor, so that a sample of the discharge may be taken and examined. The doctor may also request for a urine test. After diagnosis, you will be put on medication, and given advice to prevent recurrence.
To avoid infections, keep the area clean, wipe from front to back when you use the toilet, wear cotton underwear, avoid excessively tight underclothes like tights and bikers, and avoid use of scented soaps, feminine products and douches.