I was once told by an Ear Nose and Throat consultant that you should never put anything in your ear “smaller than your elbow”. I guess it was his witty way of saying that no fingers, bits of napkin, cotton buds, or, well, anything should go inside the ear canal.
Although ear wax doesn’t usually cause problems it can sometimes. Ear wax is perfectly normal and left on its own will naturally dry up and fall out. Putting a cotton bud (or Q-tip) in your ear is not a good idea; it may feel good but it will probably push ear wax further inside the ear – making problems more likely. Ramming ear wax deeper into your ear in this way could cause the wax to become impacted against the ear drum: symptoms from earwax build-up and impaction include dulled hearing, ear pain and a sensation of ‘fullness’ in the ear.
Rather than go poking with cotton buds, ear drops are a safer choice. Olive oil works well. Ear drops loosen the wax, helping the ear to clear itself. Chemists also sell other over the counter preparations.
There are other ways for ears to be cleaned, ‘ear irrigation’ being the most commonly recommended (and there is good evidence that it works). This involves water being ‘injected’ into the ear with a syringe, or sprayed in using an electric oral jet irrigator with a special ear irrigator tip). Ear irrigation should only be done by trained professionals because the ear drum can be damaged if not done properly.
Don’t bother with ear candling: it doesn’t work and can be dangerous.
Answer by Dr Stu
Question received from Facebook
Find out more about ear wax treatment here (NHS Choices)
Image: The Art of Conversation by jessibot, on Flickr
How does laser tattoo removal work?
I know, I know, the tattoo of ‘I love you Kevin’ seemed a great idea at the time. Sure, you had a hard time convincing you new boyfriend, Brian, that Kevin is your dead pet cat’s name. Now that Kevin is but a faded blot in the memory, it’s definitely the right time to get rid of that tattoo. Well, you’re in luck because modern technology can help.
Laser tattoo removal is the number one way to get rid of an unwanted tattoo. Very simply, it works by blasting the ink particles in the skin, undoing the tattooist’s fine work. The process is far from perfect but it’s a darned sight better than anything that has come before.
Your tattooist performed their art using an electrically powered ‘pen’ that injects ink into the upmost 2 millimetres of the skin. The tattoo machine has an ink-loaded needle that jabs up and down (a bit like a sewing machine) between 60 and 150 times a second. Each time it pierces the skin, a tiny bit of ink is deposited. Of course, the skin doesn’t take too kindly to being stabbed thousands of times with microscopic blobs of ink and so the immune system does its best to get rid of it. The ink that has been injected into the dermis of the skin (the second layer down) gets attacked by the body’s white blood cells. Treating it like an invader, they do their best to gobble it up and take it away. Over the ensuing hours and days, a ‘scar’ forms within the dermis, engulfing the large ink particles that are too big to be gotten rid of by the white blood cells. And there the ink will normally stay forevermore.
Tattoo removal lasers get rid of a tattoo by breaking down the large ink particles into smaller ones, giving the body’s immune system a chance to finally get rid of it. Lasers do this by giving pulses of light powerful enough to penetrate the top layers of skin. The colour of the laser light is tuned to give maximum energy to the colour of the tattoo ink – ‘opposite’ colours are chosen. Red ink absorbs green light; green ink absorbs red light, and black ink absorbs all colours of light. The more colours a tattoo has, the more challenging it is to remove.
Scarring is possible, although there are few serious risks associated with laser tattoo removal. It is widely seen as a pretty safe procedure and there is also no evidence that skin cancer is more likely. Plus, the end result will probably be good enough to replace the word ‘Kevin’ with ‘Brian’.
Or maybe not.
Answer by Dr Stu
Question from Jessica via Facebook.
Image source: °]° on Flikcr
Back in the day when real men smoked and doctors wore white coats, prescribing beer to pregnant women was an acceptable thing to do. They don’t do that sort of thing anymore. But for many people, the question of the nutritional merits of Guinness remains unanswered. I mean, those doctors must have known something, right?
The usual reason you hear for Guinness being suggested in pregnancy is that it’s a great source of iron. Iron is needed for the production of red blood cells and during pregnancy a mother-to-be needs 50% more than iron than usual (27mg per day compared to 18mg). It is of upmost importance for her and her unborn child that she gets enough iron as not enough can cause anaemia in her and (if prolonged) a smaller baby. So if Guinness does contain iron, then drinking it (almost) sounds like a good idea.
To find out more, we sent an email to Guinness to ask them about the nutritional content (specifically iron) of their ancient Irish beverage. They replied:
Once again, thank you for contacting Guinness.
Oh well, maybe they don’t know. Let’s see if we can help them out…
Many websites list the iron content of a pint of Guinness as being 0.3mg (which is not very much). We’ve been unable to find the original source of this number – for all we know, someone could have just made it up. Stout beer doesn’t even get listed on many authoritative nutritional information tables. The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) vast food database only lists “beer”, not stout or Guinness
After much scouring the vaults of the interweb, we finally uncovered an obscure 2002 research paper that documents the mineral content of various beers, including Guinness. They measured the iron content as being 0.1mg per litre – almost nothing. You could get the same amount of iron from eating about 15 garden peas.
Hopefully now we can lay the Guinness-contains-iron myth to rest once and for all.
Doctors’ trust in the health benefits of Guinness was misplaced. Yes, beers do contain B vitamins and folate but not in great amounts. Stout beers also contain small amounts of protein, but again, it’s pretty insignificant.
It’s interesting to note that Guinness’ current tagline is that it is ‘Made of More’. We may not know for certain what that ‘more’ is, but you won’t be needing it when you’re pregnant.
Answer by Dr Stu and Kyle Pastor
Question sent via Facebook
Read more about healthy eating in pregnancy (NHS Choices)
Alcázar A, Pablos F, Martín MA, & González AG (2002). Multivariate characterisation of beers according to their mineral content. Talanta, 57 (1), 45-52 PMID: 18968603
Image Source: theWorterCooler, on Flickr