A Question of Health: Tracking down daddy

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The Independent Culture
I WOULD like to arrange a DNA test to discover who is the father of my son. Can this be done without going through my GP?

You can arrange this directly through a commercial laboratory, without the involvement of your doctor. Alternatively, a solicitor could arrange it on your behalf. You must have the co-operation of the presumed father, who will need to provide a blood sample, and your son will have to provide a sample of blood. If you, the mother, also give a sample, the test is simpler to perform. The tests will cost pounds 360-pounds 475, depending on the number of people tested. Contact Cellmark Diagnostics (01235 528609) for full details.

I GET a terrible pain in the sole of my foot the first time I put my foot to the ground each morning. The pain gradually wanes as I begin to walk, but I am left with an ache, punctuated by a sharp stabbing pain if I walk too far. I have had this for months.

You have plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the tissues of the arch of the foot where they attach themselves to the front of the heel bone. An X-ray might well show a small spur of bone - a heel spur - at the site of your pain. There are three possible ways of relieving this. First, wear a foam pad over the tender spot. Anti-inflammatory painkillers, such as ibuprofen, taken regularly for a couple of weeks, will help both the pain and the underlying inflammation. As a last resort, it is possible to have an injection of local anaesthetic and steroid through the sole of the foot. A combination of these measures usually solves the problem.

IS THERE an injection that will prevent me from suffering (and I do mean suffering) from hay fever this year?

It is possible to have desensitisation injections but these are rarely used in Britain because of the risk of serious or fatal reactions to them. A number of allergy clinics do, however, administer these under strictly controlled conditions. Another possibility is an injection of a long- acting steroid at the beginning of the season. But this also carries risks which probably outweigh the benefits of relieving your symptoms. A combination of antihistamine tablets, eye drops and nasal sprays is highly effective in controlling hay fever.

Please send your questions to A Question of Health, `The Independent', 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL; fax 0171-293 2182; or e- mail to health@independent.co.uk. Dr Kavalier regrets that he is unable to respond personally to questions