DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am a construction worker, age 53, and have been healthy all my life. I caught what I though was an ordinary cough. It stayed and stayed, and it really disturbed my sleep. I would wake up many times through the night, coughing my lungs out. Finally I saw a doctor, who had me get an X-ray, which was normal. He gave me cough medicine that didn’t work. I saw another doctor. This doctor took blood and swabbed my throat. I had whooping cough. Isn’t this a kid’s illness? — H.C.
ANSWER: In most everyone’s mind, whooping cough is a childhood disease, but it strikes adults too. It seems that these days more and more adults are coming down with it.
Childhood whooping cough is a three-stage illness. The first stage, which lasts about a week, features symptoms similar to an ordinary cold — runny nose and a slight cough. The second stage is heralded by outbursts of violent coughing. At the end of a cough, children draw in air and make a whooping sound. This phase lasts from one to six weeks. The third stage is the convalescent period, where the cough gradually abates and eventually resolves in two to three weeks.
Adult whooping cough doesn’t usually go through these stages, and adults rarely make the whooping sound so characteristic of this condition in children. They have a cough, like yours, that just won’t go away. Everyone with a longlasting cough should consider the possibility of whooping cough.
Your second doctor did the test that establishes the diagnosis. He took a swab of the throat (or the nose) and sent it to a lab, where the whooping cough germ was identified.
If caught in its earlier stages, antibiotics can shorten the course of the illness.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have used aluminum waterless cookware since 1958. When I simmer tomato sauces in it, I notice that the pot is shiny afterward. Yikes! Does that mean aluminum has gone into the sauces and into us? Is that harmful? Does it lead to Alzheimer’s disease? — L.P.
ANSWER: Traces of aluminum have been found in the brains of some Alzheimer’s patients. To date, there has been no conclusive link between aluminum and Alzheimer’s. Furthermore, aluminum cookware releases very little of this metal into the food cooked in it. Most experts do not advise people to stop using such cookware.
Alzheimer’s disease is a tragedy for the patient and the patient’s family. The booklet on it describes what it is and how it’s treated. Readers can order a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue — No. 903W, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853- 6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6 Canada with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: What causes skin tags? They hang from my neck and under my arms. — D.H.
ANSWER: Their cause isn’t known. Your doctor can clip them off without any fuss. By age 69, 60 percent of us have one or more of them.
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.