Here's a health update compiled by Don Kirkman of Scripps Howard News Service.

Tonsil infections

The combination of cold weather and increased exposure to bacteria and viruses means tonsil infections are now peaking among young children and teenagers, a physician at one of the oldest U.S. hospitals says.

"Tonsil infections are common during the winter because that's when children are in classrooms and in close contact with other students who have upper respiratory tract infections," said Dr. Michael Cunningham, an ear, nose and throat specialist at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston.

The best indication that tonsil surgery may be necessary is the number of throat infections a child has encountered. Surgery is needed if a child has six or seven throat infections in one year, 10 infections in two years or nine to 12 infections in three years.

Teenagers also suffer tonsil infections which are indicated by frequent throat discomfort and occasional bad breath.

Tonsil surgery usually takes about an hour and causes a sore throat for one to two weeks, Cunningham said.

Varicose veins

An experimental treatment that eliminates varicose veins may become available next summer.

Using a laser-like light beam, Dr. Mitchel Goldman of La Jolla, Calif., is eliminating varicose veins in legs without damaging nearby tissues.

"The technology represents the next generation of laser-like treatments and has the potential to revolutionize the treatment of skin-related blood vessel disorders," Goldman, a surgeon, told the American Academy of Dermatology's recent annual meeting.

The new treatment's light beam uses long pulses that reach much deeper into the body than currently used lasers, Goldman said.

Second babies

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Couples who have one child shouldn't be surprised if the second child doesn't come along as quickly as the first.

They could be afflicted with the condition physicians call "secondary infertility," says Dr. Machelle Seibel, director of the Faulkner Centre for Reproductive Medicine in Boston.

There are many causes of secondary infertility, including problems during the first birth, stress and aging, she said. Couples should begin to suspect they have a problem if they can't conceive a child after a year of trying. It's time to see a physician.

Don't give up hope, Seibel added. "Because they already have a child, we know the system is capable of working."

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