Can clothes give UV protection?Is mum's pain an adhesion?

Dress for the sun

Friends in Australia told us about clothes that have an ultraviolet protection rating. Does this apply to normal children's clothes?

Australia leads the world in sun protection. Australians also have the highest rate of skin cancer. Some clothes there carry a UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) rating, but any clothing substantially reduces the sunlight that gets to the skin. Less UV radiation passes through tightly woven or knitted fabrics, and darker colours block more UV. Wet clothes let through more radiation, and loose clothes are better. Long sleeves and turned-up collars make a big difference. Cotton lets in more radiation than polyester, nylon and silk. A typical cotton T-shirt will have a UPF of about five; it lets through one-fifth of the sun's radiation, cutting out 80 per cent.

Hard to stomach

For years my mother has suffered from adhesions in her stomach. The attacks happen every few weeks and can be severe, requiring emergency morphine injections. Her GP does not think there is any solution and refuses to consult another doctor. She has prescribed amitriptyline, an antidepressant for the elderly (my mother is 66). Can we demand a second opinion, or make a formal complaint?

Sir William Osler, a doctor who lived a century ago, said: "Adhesions are the refuge of the diagnostically destitute." He was suggesting that people with abdominal pain are fobbed off with this diagnosis. Adhesions are real, and can be very painful. They are bands of fibrous tissue that stick loops of intestine together. They often form after abdominal surgery or radiotherapy, because the intestine gets bruised.

Many people with adhesions get no symptoms, but some get serious problems, including pain and obstruction of the intestine. If the diagnosis of adhesions in your mother is correct, the treatment she's getting from her GP may be sensible. I suggest first that your mother see a gastroenterologist or abdominal surgeon. If she has adhesions, her best source of help might be a pain specialist. A nutritionist may help, but I don't think there's much research into dietary management. Amitriptyline is an effective pain-reliever in small doses.

Please send your questions and suggestions to A Question of Health, The Independent, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; fax 020-7005 2182; or email Dr Kavalier regrets that he is unable to respond personally to questions

Readers write

MD chews her way out of car sickness:

My eight-year-old daughter who gets car sick feels better if she chews Orbit Sugar Free gum (the green mint one). I discovered this when I had morning sickness and someone mentioned that mint helps nausea. She recently went on a school trip – five children were sick, but she was not as she was chewing the gum.