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Ask Doctor Cory.

Dear Dr. Cory:

I have been wondering what causes mental retardation in people. Can you tell me? It seems unfair that the people who have it have to suffer. Can you get it when you are a grown-up? How do you get it? Tell me, how can I help? It is not fair that people make fun of mentally retarded people. They are still equal, just like us. Why can't people just be nice to them?
Peggy Honebrink
Mound, Minnesota

Dear Peggy:

A mental handicap is usually the result of brain damage or a genetic disorder such as Down syndrome. These are conditions for which the medical profession has not yet discovered a cure. However, depending on how severe the condition is, special education and training can often help the person become a productive member of society.

If the condition is genetic, then the person is born with the mental handicap. However, if the mental handicap is from a brain injury, it may occur early in life, as in the case of an injury during the birth process, or later in life as a result of something like a car or bicycle accident. The best way to prevent this type of injury is to always wear your seatbelt in the car and always wear a helmet while riding a bike or scooter, rollerblading, or skateboarding.

Smoking during pregnancy can double the chances of a woman having a low-birthweight baby. These babies have an increased risk of serious health problems and disabilities, including mental retardation and learning problems. Pregnant women who drink alcohol or use illegal drugs (or drugs without the supervision of a doctor) are at greater risk for having a child with mental retardation.

You are already helping by setting a good example as you treat mentally challenged people with kindness and respect. They want to be accepted and loved just like everyone else does.

Check for volunteer opportunities in your community to work with mentally challenged people at schools, churches, or community centers.

The Simian crease across the center of this palm is just one of the physical characteristics that people often have with Down syndrome.

Dear Dr. Cory:

I am ten years old and when I get headaches, I take an Aleve. Is that OK for people my age? If not, is there any way that I can get rid of them or prevent them?
Susan Jones
Hebron, Ohio

Dear Susan:

The makers of Aleve say their product should not be used in children under the age of twelve except under the advice and supervision of a family doctor.

Almost everyone gets headaches now and then. They usually are not a serious problem unless they are sudden and severe. This could be a sign that there are other problems within the head or central nervous system. Most times, however, they can be treated with rest and a mild pain reliever such as acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or ibuprofen (such as Advil). Be sure that you and your parents carefully follow the package instructions for the correct dosage.

If you are having headaches on a regular basis or they are not relieved by Tylenol or Advil, you should see your doctor for an evaluation.

Dear Dr. Cory:

I'm in 7th grade and I'm wondering, should I shave my legs? I've asked my father, and he told me the more you shave, the hairier your legs become. Is this necessarily true? I would like to know because many of the girls in my school do shave their legs.
Angela Jiatu
Dix Hills, New York

Dear Angela:

Some people think that shaving hair makes it grow faster or thicker. But the hair follicle from where the hair grows just beneath the skin does not change, and the hair just keeps growing its usual way. However, as it grows back in, the new growth, or stubble, usually feels a little rough. The decision to shave your legs is between you and your parents.

See you next issue!

Your friend, Cory SerVaas, M.D.

Parents: Get your FREE Family Fun and Fitness e-newsletter each month, featuring family-health and kids' activities. Find out more and sign up at

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.
COPYRIGHT 2002 Benjamin Franklin Literary & Medical Society, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2002 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Children's Digest
Article Type:Letter to the Editor
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2002
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