Health: A Question of Health

BOTH OF my children have a rash that has been diagnosed as molluscum contagiosum. My GP says it will go away without treatment, but it seems to be spreading. Is there any way of getting rid of it?

Molluscum contagiosum causes a scattered rash of tiny, pearly spots, often with a dimple in the middle of each. It is caused by an otherwise harmless virus. As its name suggests, it is contagious. There are often minor outbreaks in families or schools. Children are much more susceptible than adults. After a few months, the body develops immunity and the spots begin to disappear. The first sign of this is usually a red reaction around the spots. You can treat molluscum by piercing the spots with a sharp wooden probe dipped in phenol. But for most children, this is much more unpleasant than the disease. My advice is to wait patiently for the rash to disappear, as I did with my own daughter.

I HAVE an underactive thyroid gland for which I take thyroxine tablets. Before I was diagnosed several years ago, I was a regular blood donor. The thyroxine makes me feel healthier than before, but the National Blood Service is not interested in my blood. Why not?

I rang the National Blood Service to ask why they were no longer interested in your blood, which sounds perfectly good to me. They said they are happy to have blood donations from people who take thyroxine, once they are stabilised on the drug, assuming that they are otherwise fit and healthy. People who have recently started on thyroxine have to wait until they are stable before becoming blood donors. Get in touch with the National Blood Service (0345 711 711) and tell them that you now want to give blood again. They should welcome you with open arms.

I HAVE been taken to task by the Association for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus (ASBAH) over an answer that I published two weeks ago, about taking folic acid during pregnancy. The question came from a woman whose brother was born with spina bifida. She wanted to reduce the risk of her own baby being born with the condition. I suggested that she should take a daily dose of 0.4 mg of folic acid from before conception until she was 12 weeks pregnant.

This advice is correct for most women, but women who have a family history of spina bifida or a previously affected pregnancy should take 5 mg of folic acid every day (available only with a doctor's prescription). My thanks to Tony Britton of ASBAH for putting me right. ASBAH can be contacted at their National Centre, 42 Park Road, Peterborough PE1 2UQ (01733 555988) Their web page is at http://www.asbah.demon.co.uk.

Please send your queries to A Question of Health, `The Independent', 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL; fax 0171-293 2182; or e-mail health@ independent.co.uk. Dr Kavalier regrets that he cannot respond personally to your questions

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