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Ask Doctor Cory.

Dear Dr. Cory:

Why do our eyes hurt when we look at the sun?
Rachel Stroeker and Eilleen Green
Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Dear Rachel and Eilleen:

It's never a good idea to look directly into the sun, because invisible heat rays can burn and scar the retina (RET-in-uh), a delicate layer of cells at the back of the eye.

The retina is very sensitive to light. The discomfort caused by bright light causes a reflex to shield our eyes and decrease the amount of light striking them, to prevent damage to the retina. The pupil (PYOO-pil), or black center of the eye, also controls the light entering the eye. Muscles in the colored part of the eye around the pupil, the iris (EYE-riss), contract and make the pupil smaller. This lets in less light. Or the iris can relax, admitting more light. Try standing in front of a mirror with the lights off, then suddenly turning them on. See how your pupils shrink.

Look Out!

People should never look at the sun, especially during an eclipse! This is tough, because an eclipse makes it seem easier to look because the light is dimmer than usual.

But even though the sun is darker, its dangerous heat rays can still damage your eyes. Looking at the sun through a telescope is also very dangerous, because the telescope focuses the sun's rays directly onto the retina.

Dear Dr. Cory:

Why do bug bites itch?
Deborah Dawson

Dear Deborah:

Most of the time when people ask about itchy bug bites, they mean mosquitoes. The mosquito sucks your blood directly from a tiny blood vessel called a capillary (CAP-uh-lary). The mosquito has a chemical in its saliva that keeps blood from clotting. Your body releases a chemical called histamine (HIST-uh-meen), which causes blood vessels near the bite to enlarge, making the area red and swollen. Histamine also irritates nerve endings in the skin, which you feel as an itch.

The best treatment for a mosquito bite is to wash with soap and water. Use hydrocortisone cream to help stop the itching. Try not to scratch the bites. They can easily become infected.

Dear Dr. Cory:

Every time I touch a poison ivy plant, I get bumps on my face. Why is that?
Edwin Durand
Jamaica, New York

Dear Dr. Cory:

How come whenever you touch poison ivy you get a rash and your body gets red?
Sanpreet Singh
Jamaica, New York

Dear Edwin and Sanpreet:

Poison ivy contains an oil called urushiol (u-ROO-she-ol). Touching the plant gets the oil on your skin, which usually means a very itchy, blistering rash that can begin from six hours to six days later.

Try to avoid this plant. When in areas where it grows, wear long pants, shoes, socks, and a long-sleeved shirt for protection.

If you touch a poison ivy plant, wash with soap and water within five minutes to remove the oil. Anything that touches the plant should also be washed, including clothes, toys, gardening equipment even pets. Oil on their fur can easily spread to you.

Some over-the-counter lotions can be applied to the skin and provide protection against poison ivy oil.


Cory SerVaas M.D.
Send your health questions
to: "Ask Doctor Cory," U*S*Kids,
P.O. Box 567, Indianapolis, IN
46206. Or, e-mail your questions to:

This column does not replace your doctor's advice.
COPYRIGHT 2001 Children's Better Health Institute
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:SerVaas, Cory
Publication:U.S. Kids
Article Type:Letter to the Editor
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2001
Previous Article:Hamburger Me at the Car!
Next Article:BEST FOR THE END.

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