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DEAR DR. DONOHUE - I have been exercising to try to flatten my stomach. I have lost a little girth, but it is still not flat. I wonder if stomachs were meant to be flat? I'd like to go from 33 inches to 30 inches. - F.O.S.

ANSWER - I don't think anyone ever had a perfectly flat stomach, but you can get close to it. I wonder if you have been doing sit-ups and have been doing them incorrectly. Doing sit-ups with knees straight out in front of you can be counterproductive. It can make the stomach pop out even more than it already is. You have to bend the knees up somewhat. For "Five Steps to a Thin Waist," write to Dr. Donohue/No. 38, P.O. Box 19660, Irvine, CA 92713-0660, enclosing a long, stamped, self-addressed envelope and $2, or $1.50 for "Introduction to Fitness" (No. 12).DEAR DR. DONOHUE - Do they have an idea as to how many pregnant women with AIDS will have babies born with it? - V.I.

ANSWER - The terrible statistic is that one in three infants of mothers with positive AIDS tests will have AIDS by 18 months. Some have said the figure is closer to one in two.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE - I am a 15-year-old boy. Recently, some rashes appeared on my arms and legs, some on my chest. They look like mosquito bites and itch. I don't think I am allergic. Could it be chickenpox? I can't recall having it as a child. There is scabbing also. It has gone on for a couple of months. - A.S.

ANSWER - Your rash, going on this long, does not sound like the typical chickenpox case. Let me describe the typical progression.

The rash usually begins on the scalp, chest, abdomen or back. It starts as flat, large red dots that become fluid-filled blisters. It then spreads to the arms and legs. New blister crops continue to appear for three or four days.

Have you been exposed to someone who had such an outbreak? That would make the pox more likely as an explanation of your skin symptoms. You usually come down about two weeks after exposure. If you still have this rash, you should visit a dermatologist to settle things and find the best course to take.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE - You suggest etidronate for Paget's disease. I am now using Didronel for it. Is etidronate more beneficial for Paget's disease? Is it better than Didronel? - Mrs. B.W.

ANSWER - Didronel is the tradename for etidronate, which is what we call its generic name. Not everyone with Paget's bone disease needs drug treatment. But for those who do, Didronel (etidronate) is often the drug of first choice. Incidentally, you can tell whether a name is a drug's trade or generic one. Tradenames are capitalized, generics lowercased, as in the above instance.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: What is the difference between inguinal and femoral hernia? Do children get these? - Mrs. L.L.

ANSWER - The difference is location, the inguinal hernia being higher in the groin than the femoral type. Hernias in children tend to be of the inguinal type, most frequently in males and usually on the right side.

QUESTION: I take issue with your discussion of Tietze's syndrome. You implied that the woman's chest pain might originate from inflammation of the cartilage attaching the ribs to the breastbone. My understanding is that cartilage does not have blood vessels or nerve supply, so how could it cause pain? - G.D. (physical therapist).

ANSWER: Ouch. Got me, G.D. An explanation is in order. Ribs 2 and 7 form synovial joints at their attachments. As you know, joint surfaces are covered with a tissue (synovium). It secretes lubricating fluid for the joint. Tietze's chest pain is from inflammation of the synovium, not of the cartilage, which as you say is avascular and has no nerves. I was simplifying for the non-professional reader.