Health: Itchy rashes and sticky moments

Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online
OF LATE, readers have been sending me a considerable number of problems and queries. Alas, I haven't got time to answer them in person, but I'm quite prepared to pad out the occasional column with those selected at random from a large, home-made tombola I keep under the stairs.

I've developed a rash of small blisters around my body hair and it itches like mad. Could this be anything to do with the jacuzzi at my health club?

Monty, Bath

Yes, Monty, it could, but I'd need to see it to be sure. It sounds like you've got what President Clinton might call "hot-tub folliculitis". This is an infection of the hair follicles caused by pseudomonas, a bacteria which thrives in poorly chlorinated whirlpools. Get the management to check the levels and avoid the hot tub if it looks cloudy. On the other hand, it may be caused by a fungus or staphylococcus and have nothing to do with your health club. Either way, you need treatment, so pop along to your GP. Alternatively, you can fax me your rash on 0171 293 2451.

Can I lose weight by sleeping?

Anne, Leeds

In theory, yes. To keep ticking over, your body burns off a mammoth 65 calories an hour when you're asleep, so provided your daily consumption doesn't exceed this (ie 1,560 calories per 24 hours), you'll lose weight. However, there is a downside to spending all your life in bed (muscle wasting, pressure sores, pneumonia, body odour, etc) and at the very least, you'd have to pay someone to turn you at regular intervals. I'd recommended interspersing your slumber with a bit of light movement.

I've got asthma, so I have switched from feather-filled pillows to synthetic ones, like I was told to by my GP. Trouble is, I'm even more wheezy now. Why?

Sally, Glasgow

The theory behind the switch was that feathers make asthma worse for some patients. Unfortunately, we now know you're more likely to be worse on a synthetic pillow because the house-dust mite, which triggers many attacks, prefers man-made bedding. So, switch back.

I suffer dreadfully from premature ejaculation and I think my girlfriend may have noticed. Any suggestions?

Colin, Bishop's Lydiard

Well, Colin, some partners like it quick because it avoids all that nasty grunting business - so it may not be a problem at all. Indeed, the 1978 Hite Report of 11,239 men found that 21 per cent come within a minute and a further 62 per cent before five. If you do want to prolong the agony, you will have to increase your tolerance to sexual excitement. "Holding back" usually doesn't work, unless you can conjure up a particularly vivid picture of Jimmy Nail, and penis-training is generally called for. The following method was described by a bloke called Semans (I kid you not). All you need is a partner and some lubrication.

1) Ask your partner to bring you to the brink manually. When this point is reached, ask her to squeeze tight just underneath the glans (or cherry, as we doctors call it). When the urge has gone, relax and repeat the process allowing yourself to make a mess on the fourth go (you can try this alone, too).

2) Repeat the above using a lubricant such as as KY jelly to simulate vaginal intercourse. A blindfold helps, too.

3) Use this stop/start method for intercourse with your partner on top. Put your hands on her hips to guide her motions, stopping when you're nearly there. Again, let go on the fourth occasion. With time and training, your "brink interval" will increase and you'll feel confident to start thrusting again. Note: The Semans method works best if you both have a sense of humour and worst if only one of you has.

Does black coffee sober you up?

Jane, London

Yes and no. Caffeine is a stimulant that increases your alertness but it is also, like alcohol, a diuretic (ie: makes you pee) and can make your dehydration worse. Contrary to popular belief, it does nothing to speed up the breakdown of alcohol in your blood - it takes an hour to metabolise each glass of wine or half pint of normal strength beer - so you can't drive for at least 12 hours after a session, no matter how many double espressos you've had.

Why does my doctor go "Pop" all the time?

Suzy, Birmingham

I presume you mean say "pop" rather than flatulate loudly. Pop is perhaps the most overused word in medicine. Look, I even used it in my first answer. An average morning surgery would include "Pop behind the curtains", "Pop up onto the couch", "I'll just pop in the thermometer/speculum/other cold piece of metal", "Pop to the loo", "Pop the sample into reception" and "Pop back in a week's time". I've no idea why we do it, but you should be thankful you've got a GP who speaks to you at all.

Please don't send any more problems to Dr Phil at The Independent, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL.

Phil Hammond's `Trust Me, I'm a Doctor' is on BBC2 tonight at 8pm.