Question: I'm a senior in high school, and I am deathly afraid of needles. I was nearly hysterical when I found out I had to have a blood test for my new job. Everyone tells me it won't hurt and just not think about it. But it never works. Also, I've never had a blood test, where they actually take blood. Maybe I should go to a hypnotist. But maybe you have some ideas.

- A.B.

Answer: Don't think that you are the only one with this phobia. People who draw blood every day in their work see it constantly.

All you have to do is inform the one drawing blood of your concern. You will be given time to relax and prepare for it. You can ask to lie down for the drawing process. Don't watch the needle or the one drawing blood.

Not watching is the important part. It is sights and movements that cause the problem - the sight of the needle insertion and worse, the flow of blood through a tube into the vial. It's this explosion of imagination that takes you down. Distract yourself, count numbers, etc. There is no real pain, and often you do not even feel the prick of the needle. Relax. Don't tense up.

The best part of it is that it is over quickly.

Question: My mother-in-law has shingles. I know it is somehow connected to exposure to the chickenpox virus, so I wonder if it is safe to expose my baby to her. The baby has never had chickenpox.

- L.L.

Answer: After you get over chickenpox, its virus lives on, retreating to certain nerve cells. For many, it resurfaces later in life as shingles.

It is possible for a person to come down with the chickenpox from exposure to someone with shingles rash. That person would get chickenpox, not shingles.

The chance of virus transmission is much less from exposure to a shingles patient than from exposure to someone with chickenpox, however. The reason is that a chickenpox patient spreads the virus widely by way of coughed droplets.

Still, it would be prudent not to expose the baby to your mother-in-law until her shingles rash has gone away.

Your other questions are answered in the shingles report I am sending along. Others can order the pamphlet by writing: Dr. Donohue - No. 28, Box 5539, Riverton, NJ 08077-5539. Enclose $3 and a self-addressed, stamped (55 cents) No. 10 envelope.

Question: What is the cause of congestive heart failure? What is the treatment? Is surgery sometimes recommended?

- Mrs. R.O.

Answer: Congestive heart failure begins with a loss of heart strength, in its ability to pump sufficient blood out into circulation.

View Comments

Congestive heart failure has many consequences, including an effect on the kidneys' ability to remove excess body fluid. The most life-threatening problem is a backup of lung circulation, with forced leaking of blood fluid resulting in breathlessness and coughing.

While the causes of congestive heart failure lie in the heart itself, certain forces contribute. If coronary arteries clog up, the resulting poor heart nourishment will eventually diminish pumping efficiency. A defective heart valve might hinder proper blood flow and lead to circulatory problems. Uncontrolled blood pressure can place great stress on the heart and weaken it in time.

Treatments vary with each case, each cause. Diuretics help rid the body of excess fluid, digitalis drugs help strengthen the heart's beat and artery dilators permit freer circulation.

Surgery can come into play. I am thinking of procedures to unclog or replace blocked arteries or to repair or replace defective heart valves. Usually, though, the problem is handled without surgery.

Join the Conversation
Looking for comments?
Find comments in their new home! Click the buttons at the top or within the article to view them — or use the button below for quick access.