Question: Please elaborate on toxoplasmosis and the infection risk in pregnant women. Is protection needed?
Answer: Toxoplasmosis organisms are everywhere. Infection from them is common.
Consider that 90 percent of the Paris population carries it, as do half of all Americans. Why the difference? The two most common sources of infection are undercooked meat and cat litter. Presumably, Europeans eat more undercooked meat and we get exposed to more cat litter.
The figures do not alarm epidemiologists, because most people who are exposed never develop illness. True, if a person's immune system is weakened by some ailment, the Toxoplasma germ can come out of hiding to cause serious trouble. And there is great hazard during pregnancy, when the mother's germ can infect the fetus, with serious consequences.
Pregnant women should avoid cat litter. If handling cat litter is absolutely necessary, the pregnant woman should use disposable gloves and change the litter box daily. She should also respect the other main route of infection, avoiding undercooked meat meals. It is also wise for her to wash fruits and vegetables carefully. The Toxoplasma can cling to them. I advise washing of hands after any food preparation.
A veterinarian reader recommends to me that I urge blood testing for toxoplasmosis in pregnant women. It makes excellent sense but might be prohibitively expensive.
Question: You have on occasion mentioned sound maskers for the nagging problem of ear noises that so many of us elders have to deal with. Do you think one would help me? Enclosed is description of my condition.
Answer: Your ear noises description sounds like a classic case. I cannot say whether maskers will help in any specific noise disturbance complaint, though.
Remember that maskers do not cure anything. They only make living with the problem less unpleasant.
Sometimes, ear noises can be part of some other problem.
Let me give you the address of an organization that can provide you with some helpful information: the American Tinnitus Association, P.O. Box 5, Portland, OR 97207. The association has lots of good reading material.
For now, try this: At night, set your radio dial at an FM setting where you get static only. Many find that is enough to mask their noises and permit sleep.
My report on ear noises has more information. Readers can order a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue - No. 9, P.O. Box 5539, Riverton, NJ 08077-5539. Enclose a self-addressed, stamped (52 cents) No. 10 envelope and $3.
Question: You mentioned recently that there are ways to remove plantar warts. Would you be more specific? My daughter has them on the bottom of both feet. She tells me her doctor says they can be removed by breaking the bones in her feet. As her mother, I am very much against this. Can you comment?
Answer: That technique is news to me. Frankly, I would make haste to get a second opinion, unless something is being lost in translation here. Maybe your daughter has some other foot disturbance unrelated to plantar warts.
Plantar warts, which are virus-caused, can be frozen off or removed by acids or laser. "Plantar" refers to the wart location - on the sole.
Question: Can you recommend any good reference books for vitamins?
Answer: There are many. You might glance through one titled "Vitamins and Minerals: Help or Harm?" by Charles W. Marshall, published by Lippincott. If it's not in your library, you certainly should be able to find acceptable substitutes.