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Ask Doctor Cory.

Dear Dr. Cory:

Why do doctors give you needles for medicine? Isn't there another way that you can give it to us? Also, we are talking about helmet protection at our school. Why do doctors ask, "Do you wear a helmet?"
Mariah Oyeo
West Brookfield, Massachusetts

Dear Mariah:

We can't think of anyone who likes getting a shot or being stuck with a needle. However, to help prevent many serious diseases and sometimes to give important medications, shots are necessary. Unfortunately, our strong digestive juices destroy most vaccines taken by mouth. When a vaccine is given in the form of a shot, it allows the vaccine material to enter the body "unchanged" by digestion and to begin the process of building protection against the disease, or immunity. Some vaccines take weeks to make even partial immunity.

Research doctors are coming up with easier ways to give vaccines. They hope a new vaccine that helps prevent influenza, or flu, will be available to the public soon. This vaccine is given by spraying it into the nose.

Shots are also sometimes necessary to give important medicines that need to get into the bloodstream quickly so that they can go to work.

The good thing about vaccines is that as you get older, you don't need as many of them. Meanwhile, for those times when you do need a shot, try blowing, like you are blowing bubbles, as the shot is being given. Researchers have found that this also seems to be helpful for other short periods of pain. You might try it the next time you have to have a splinter removed.

Your doctor is asking you about wearing a bicycle helmet because he knows it will protect you. In the event of a bicycle accident, bicycle helmets have proven to greatly reduce head and brain injury. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of children who ride bicycles but don't wear helmets.

Maybe along with your parents and school, you could help. develop bicycle safety programs that strongly encourage the use of bicycle helmets. You might also want to work with your community toward developing laws requiring helmet use by all bicyclists.

Dear Dr. Cory:

Does it hurt you if you swallow a penny? If it does, how?
Kaitlyn Cornell
Mattoon, Illinois

Dear Kaitlyn:

Yes, it can cause serious health problems. Oftentimes the coin passes naturally through the digestive system. However, with some people who swallow coins (usually children), the coins get stuck in the esophagus (e-SOF-a-gus), the tube that carries food to the stomach. If the coin is not surgically removed, it can become irritated and eventually cause an ulcer, or hole, in the esophagus. If the coin breaks loose on its own, it can block the breathing passages, causing a life-threatening situation and creating a surgical emergency.

Determining whether to remove the coin depends on the age of the person when the coin was swallowed, the condition of the patient, and where the coin is located.

Dear Dr. Cory:

I have a little bump on my nose. You can't see it, only feel it. I don't know what it is. My doctor looked at it and said it was nothing to worry about. One time it left for about a week, then came back. I've had it about one year. I would like to know what it is. Do you know?
Bree Dekker
Yakima, Washington

Dear Bree:

Your doctor said it was nothing to worry about, but ask him to explain what it is and why you shouldn't worry. The bump could be caused by a number of things. Sometimes, to get a definite diagnosis, you need to see a dermatologist, a doctor who specializes in caring for the skin.

With summer upon us, it is a good time to review important habits to protect your skin from the sun. About 15-20 minutes before going outside, thickly apply a broad-spectrum UVA-UVB sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 to every exposed area, including ears, nose, forehead, and neck. Reapply the sunscreen every two hours or after swimming or sweating heavily, regardless of whether the sunscreen is waterproof.

Protect yourself with clothing, including a wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses. And everyone should avoid the sun from 10 AM until 4 PM.

See you next issue!

Your friend,

Cory SerVaas, M.D.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) urges everyone to check their skin regularly. This means looking over your entire body--including your back, your scalp, soles of your feet, between your toes, even the palms of your hands. If there are any changes in the size, color, shape, or texture of a mole, the growth of a new mole, or any other unusual changes in the skin, please see your dermatologist or personal doctor right away.

The AAD says to think of A, B, C, D when watching for signs of skin cancer in moles or pigmented spots:

* A=Asymmetry (one half doesn't look like the other half)

* B=Border is irregular, not completely round, symmetrical, or even

* C=Color varies from one area to another, with shades of brown, black, or tan; at times red, white, or blue

* D=Diameter larger than 6 millimeters (about the size of a pencil eraserhead)

Send your health questions to "Ask Doctor Cory" Children's Digest, P.O. Box 567, Indianapolis, IN 46206 or e-mail us at This column does not replace your doctor's advice.

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Author:SerVaas, Cory
Publication:Children's Digest
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2002
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