A Question of Health: 'Fifteen-year-olds do not like to be told what to eat'

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Q. A stye on my upper eyelid has developed into a tiny lump that has been present for nearly two months. It is not painful, but I can feel it when I blink and occasionally it seems to get slightly red and sore. How can I get rid of it?

Q. A stye on my upper eyelid has developed into a tiny lump that has been present for nearly two months. It is not painful, but I can feel it when I blink and occasionally it seems to get slightly red and sore. How can I get rid of it?

A. You have developed a meibomian cyst. Styes are tiny infections in the edge of the eyelid. They may develop in the root of one of the eyelashes, but sometimes the infection is in one of the pores that secrete an oily fluid that helps lubricate the eye. These pores are the openings of the meibomian glands. If the pore gets blocked up by an infection, the gland continues to secrete fluid which can't get out. The lump in your eyelid is full of this fluid. It may resolve spontaneously over the next few months, but if it doesn't, it can be removed by a small operation under local anaesthetic. I wouldn't rush to have an operation, because sometimes a tiny lump of scar remains even after the cyst is removed, and it hardly seems worth trading one type of lump for another.

Q. Our 15-year-old daughter is getting seriously overweight. She finds it difficult to control her eating, and I suspect she is secretly eating sweets on the way to and from school. Would it be possible for her to go to an organisation like Weight Watchers? Or do you have any other suggestions?

A. My first suggestion is that you avoid all arguments about food and eating. Your daughter will only be able to get her eating under control if she feels in control of herself. Fifteen-year-olds definitely do not like to be told what they should or should not eat by their parents. Just let her know that you are on her side and that you want to help her to help herself. Weight Watchers is an excellent organisation and you should encourage your daughter to go. Because she is under 16, she will need the written approval of her GP, and she must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. If she is agreeable, help her to make a doctor's appointment to discuss her weight as a first step. You can find the nearest Weight Watchers group by phoning 08457 123000. On the internet, they are at: www.weightwatchers.co.uk

Q. I have had sex with two new partners recently, and one of them has discovered that he may be suffering from a chlamydia infection. I am terrified that, if I caught it, I will become infertile. How long after catching chlamydia does infertility start?

A. Chlamydia is becoming more and more common, and if it is left untreated it can lead to infertility. But it is easy to treat chlamydia with antibiotics, and once you are treated, it will not lead to any other problems or complications. The first thing you must do is find out if you are carrying the infection. Either see your GP or go to a local clinic for sexually transmitted diseases (also known as a genito-urinary medicine or sexual health clinic). You can find the nearest one by phoning your local hospital or by phoning the NHS Health Information Service on 0800 665544. Don't delay - the longer you wait, the greater the chance of fertility problems.

Q. I am going to be backpacking in Africa and Asia for nine months on a gap year, and I am very worried about the chance of catching Aids if I ever need a blood transfusion. I am carrying sterile syringes. Is there any way that I could carry dried blood from a British blood bank that could be used in an emergency?

A. You are right to be concerned about the risk of a blood transfusion in some African and Asian countries where blood donations are not always screened for Aids and hepatitis infection. The best protection against catching a serious disease from a blood transfusion is to try and avoid the need for a transfusion. Road accidents and accidents on hired mopeds are the commonest causes of serious injury in developing countries. Always wear seatbelts in cars and minibuses, and avoid mopeds and motorcycles, which cause some of the worst injuries among backpackers. The Blood Care Foundation is a charitable organisation that guarantees to provide safe blood for transfusion anywhere in the world. To find out more about the service they provide, you can contact them on 01732 742427, or consult their website: www.bloodcare.org.uk

Please send your questions to A Question of Health, 'The Independent', Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; fax 020-7005 2182 or e-mail to health@independent.co.uk

Dr Kavalier regrets that he is unable to respond personally to questions