Ask the Doctors by Eve Glazier, M.D. and Elizabeth Ko, M.D

Be on the Lookout for Ticks This Summer

Hello again, dear readers, and welcome to our monthly column devoted to your thoughts, notes and suggestions. We’re deep into spring, so here’s our annual reminder to be on high alert for ticks. Dress defensively, use repellents and do thorough and regular tick checks. Always seek medical care if a tick bite is followed by a rash, fever or other flulike symptoms. Be sure to also protect any four-footed companions with access to the outdoors. And now, to the inbox.

-- Many of you wrote in response to a column about the health benefits of nuts, asking if roasted and salted nuts are OK. Although roasting doesn’t affect protein, fiber or carbohydrate content, it may chemically alter the healthy fats that nuts contain. Roasting can also cause the formation of acrylamide, a compound that has been studied as a potential carcinogen. Roasted nuts have less acrylamide than potato chips or french fries, and the American Cancer Society says the effect on cancer risk in humans remains unclear. Regarding salted nuts, the main caution is to include the added sodium in calculating your total daily intake. This shouldn’t exceed 2,300 milligrams, and is hopefully closer to the American Heart Association’s goal of 1,500 milligrams per day.

-- Regarding a column about sexually transmitted diseases, a reader asked whether washing or douching after sex will protect against sexually transmitted diseases. The answer to both of those is NO. The best protection against STDs is the correct and consistent use of latex condoms, which can prevent transmission of both bacterial and viral STDs.

Although topical microbicides, which are substances like gels, films or suppositories, can kill or neutralize viruses and bacteria, it is recommended they be used along with condoms. Since some STDs can be transmitted via oral sex, it’s important to have a frank conversation about sexual history and potential health risks with your partner before sex.

-- We heard from a lot of parents in response to the column about the potential problems caused by the heavy school backpacks our kids are now toting. One reader wishes we had gone into more detail about how to lighten the load.

“This is a good time to teach children how to plan and decide what to keep in their backpack all the time versus what they need at certain periods of the day,” she wrote. “Many keep everything just because they might need it. Teaching them planning, time management and simple solutions like rotating books and binders during their day, or sharing binders for several morning or afternoon classes, can lighten the load.”

-- When we write about dogs, we get a ton of mail. In response to a recent column about a grandfather’s plans to adopt a dog, a reader from Oklahoma pointed out that pets aren’t for everyone: “If the person has balance problems or vision problems, there could be a high likelihood of tripping over the pet,” he wrote. “That could result in some serious injury.”

Thank you, as always, for your interest and engagement with this column. We love hearing from you and look forward to your letters.

(Send your questions to askthedoctors@mednet.ucla.edu, or write: Ask the Doctors, c/o UCLA Health Sciences Media Relations, 10880 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1450, Los Angeles, CA, 90024. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.)