DEAR DR. DONOHUE: What’s the best way to treat sunburn? I get one every year. I know it will happen this year too, and I want to be prepared. — D.J.
ANSWER: The best way to treat sunburn is not to get one.
What makes you think you’ll get one this year? You’re doing something wrong. I have to repeat things that should be common knowledge, so bear with me.
Don’t go out into the sun during the hours of its greatest intensity — 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. I have a feeling this is a rule observed more in its breach.
Always wear sunscreen with an SPF — sun protection factor — of 15. If you are very sensitive to sunlight, use one with an SPF of 30. Apply it 15 to 30 minutes before going outside, and reapply it at least every two hours. Each application requires about 1 ounce. If you go into the water or are sweating heavily, apply the sunscreen more frequently.
With a sunburn, in about three hours after exposure, the skin reddens and becomes painful and hot. Taking aspirin relieves pain and can lessen the damage done to the skin. Don’t give aspirin to young children — they can take Tylenol. Cool baths or cool compresses make a person more comfortable. Apply a skin moisturizer, but don’t use butter or petrolatum. If blisters form, don’t break them. If they’re extensive, see a doctor.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: For the past six months, I have had no energy. I teach third grade. My doctor checked my thyroid gland, and it turns out it’s not working well. I am now taking replacement thyroid hormone. How long does it take for me to recover my former energy? Also, my cholesterol was high. Is that part of this deal? — M.O.
ANSWER: It can take three to six months for your hormone level to reach a normal plateau. That’s when you’ll feel like your old self again.
A person with low thyroid hormone often has a rise in blood cholesterol. The level will fall as soon as the replacement hormone is working.
The booklet on thyroid problems discusses both under- and overactive thyroid glands. Readers can order a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue — No. 401W, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6 Can. with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am 83, and following hip surgery I developed a dropped foot. All I hear is that it is something I have to live with. Is there another answer? — D.K.
ANSWER: It takes a long time for an injured nerve to heal. Sometimes it never does. However, that doesn’t mean something can’t be done for a dropped foot.
Any number of braces can make walking much easier for a person with a dropped foot. I’d see about that now and bide my time, hoping the nerve will regenerate.
Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475.
©2009 North America Synd.