Dear Doctor: I used a razor that my HIV-positive niece used. Am I safe?
Dear Charles: One is likely to acquire HIV, hepatitis B or C, or even tetanus when they use an unsterilised razor which may have accidently cut another person.
However, the HIV virus is very fragile and may not survive for more than 25 minutes outside a human host where it needs warmth, and body chemistry to survive. Even when a razor cuts somebody leading to profuse bleeding, it is rare that the virus survives long enough to infect the next user who will need to cut themselves to be at risk.
Getting infected by HIV in your case is dependent on; the amount of virus in the blood of the person you shared the razor with (the lower his level, the lesser the risk of transmission); whether there was blood on the razor and if you cut yourself, and if the cut bled; whether the blood on the razor was dried (if dried, there would be no risk); if you used the razor immediately after your niece had used it.
Even if all these circumstances were true, thus increasing the likelihood of infection, factors such as one’s immunity would put the risk at less than one in 250 people getting infected this way.
Although one can easily get other diseases such as tetanus this way, you need to go and get an HIV test (just to know your serostatus). Also, you need to get immunised against tetanus or Hepatitis B. Hepatitis B can survive outside the body for longer (seven days) compared to a few minutes for HIV.
Dear Doctor: I have two children. However, when I got married two years ago, I failed to get more children. A doctor did a semen check which revealed that I had no sperms. How then did I get the other the two children?
Dear Mugula: Bearing children, or failing to, is dependent on both a man and a woman and thus the need for both partners to visit a doctor for help.
The commonest cause of failure to get offspring yet one had them before, is blockage of the tubes that carry sperms from the testes to the penis. This may be caused by STDs acquired after begetting the children. The STDs may cause wounds and therefore scars that may lead to the blockage.
There are cases where the sperm is absent because of retrograde ejaculation, an incident in which the semen and sperm go to the bladder instead of coming out through the penis during ejaculation.
Also, a man with a low sperm count may manage to have children when young, with a young woman (their fertility is usually very high), but fail to have more later on in life. However, he may also be able to have children later in life if he had a younger fertile woman. These scenarios could be the reason you had children before but failed to have them now.
Operations can be done to open up the tubes but is usually difficult to find out where the blockages are. However, sperms can be recovered from the testes if the operation fails or is not done, and then used for In Vitro fertilisation which can also result in offspring. If one still fails to get a child, they can resort to adoption.
Dear Doctor: I suffer from gout yet the cause is eating meat which I don’t do. I also stopped drinking beer and sodas but the problem is not going away. Is this really gout? If so, what can I do?
Dear Sam: Gout is a form of arthritis which is characterised by sudden bouts of pain and joint swellings, which if not properly controlled, can cause severe damage to joints, tendons, and organs like the kidneys.
It is caused by a buildup of uric acid crystals in the joints. Uric acid is a product of a break down of substances called purines that are part of the many foods we eat. It can also be produced in our bodies without coming from our diets. People with gout produce too much uric acid or have problems eliminating it through the kidneys.
While uric acid exists naturally in the body, it can be increased in the body by eating certain foods that contain purines risking gout. Avoiding foods high in purines may help reduce the recurrence or severity of gout especially if this is done in conjunction with drugs.
Obesity, excessive weight gain, especially in youth, alcohol intake, high blood pressure, and abnormal kidney function are among the risk factors for developing gout. Certain drugs such as those for high blood pressure, and diseases like those caused by low thyroid hormone such as hypothyroidism, also put one at risk of getting gout.
Maintaining adequate fluid intake, avoiding alcohol and dietary changes can help reduce uric acid levels in the blood. Since purines are converted by the body into uric acid, purine-rich foods such as red meats, organs like liver and kidneys should be avoided or taken in moderation. Fats apart from also containing purines increase obesity and avoiding them will help weight reduction which is helpful in lowering the risk of recurrent attacks of gout.
Beer has purines, reduces urinary loss of uric acid, leads to dehydration and obesity, which are all risks of gout. Beer raises gout risk by 49 per cent per daily serving, while spirits only 15 per cent. Sweetened soft drinks can raise gout risk by 35 per cent and should not be an alternative to beer. Diet sodas, however, do not affect gout risk.
Dear Doctor: I am not asthmatic. However, I suffocate when I’m in a lift or when in a taxi with closed windows. I also get chest pain, heart pumping and sweating. What is the problem?
Dear Tolbert: When there is difficulty in breathing associated with coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath, we say a person may have asthma.
Asthma is a condition in which airways narrow, swell, and produce extra mucus, leading to the aforementioned symptoms.
Some people may sneeze, have a running nose, watery eyes, headaches, wheeze and have breathing difficulties the moment they enter lifts. Lifts may have or have had people with various perfumes and body odours to which one may react to.
The perfumes contain various chemicals and together with body odours and chemicals used to clean lifts and detergents used to wash clothes, can lead to allergy reactions in some people. This does not necessarily happen only in people who have had asthma attacks before.
Fortunately, an over the counter antihistamine may help control the allergy symptoms if they go beyond being in the lift.
Some people may get symptoms of anxiety including sweating, a rapid heart, breathing faster and deeper than normal, shaking, getting nauseated, panic or even feel like fainting when inside a closed space like a lift or closed window taxi or bus when they have a condition called claustrophobia, a fear of confined places.
These people in real life have a personality of worrying over small issues. Whereas keeping one from enclosed places may help, counselling may also be required.