Dr Fred Kavalier: A Question of Health

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I have started making myself sick after large meals. I realise this doesn't indicate a very healthy attitude, mentally, towards food, but I want to know if there is any physical harm from vomiting. I'm too embarrassed to ask my GP.

I have started making myself sick after large meals. I realise this doesn't indicate a very healthy attitude, mentally, towards food, but I want to know if there is any physical harm from vomiting. I'm too embarrassed to ask my GP.

The main physical effects of vomiting come from the strong acids that are in the fluids of the stomach. This acid is designed to stay inside the stomach, and when you vomit it gets into the oesophagus, the throat and the mouth. The acid can damage the lining of the oesophagus, causing indigestion and "heartburn". It can have similar effects in the throat, and occasionally it can even trickle down into the lungs where it can lead to coughing and even chest infections. But the commonest effect of vomiting is the damage it does to teeth. The acid of the stomach gradually eats away at the enamel, making teeth more sensitive to hot and cold foods, and also more likely to develop decay. In the most extreme cases, the teeth can even fall out. You may be suffering from bulimia, and I think you should ask for help from your GP. The Eating Disorders Association has a helpline (01603 621 414, 9am-6.30pm weekdays) and a Youthline (for 18 and under, 01603 765 050, open 4-6.30pm weekdays).

Is it safe for a five-week-old baby and his breastfeeding mother to visit grandparents who have MRSA? The husband has the infection in his lungs after being in intensive care; his wife has the same infection in a leg ulcer.

MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Ordinary Staphylococcus aureus is a common bacteria that frequently lives on the skin and in the noses of healthy people. When the bacteria is exposed to antibiotics, it can become resistant to them and transform itself into MRSA. Methicillin is an antibiotic used to test bacterial resistance. The risk of contracting MRSA outside of hospital is extremely small, so there is no reason why you and your baby shouldn't visit relations with MRSA. Keep away from the dressings, and wash hands with an antiseptic soap after the visit.

Please send your questions to health@independent.co.uk. Dr Kavalier regrets that he is unable to respond personally to questions

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