DEAR ABBY: Your response to the grandparent who was concerned because her 13-year-old granddaughter had a mustache was incomplete. You focused only on the cosmetic problem when she may have a true medical problem. She should be evaluated by her primary-care physician to rule out a medical basis for her excess body hair.
For example, she may have polycystic ovaries syndrome, which is associated with hirsutism (excess body hair), obesity, menstrual irregularities and enlarged ovaries. It may later reveal itself as a cause of infertility, adrenal or ovarian tumors. Also, certain medications could cause excess body hair.
Most cases of hirsutism are benign, and a complete history and physical by a physician can provide the much needed reassurance that a teen-ager is normal. The visit also gives pediatricians (or family practitioners) an opportunity to touch base with a population notorious for avoiding doctors -- adolescents. Not only are they underimmunized, they are also the group most in need of anticipatory guidance on issues such as abstinence, safe sex, birth control, STDs, drugs, alcohol, smoking, guns, nutrition, school performance, sports and safe driving.
Thank you, Abby, for championing these issues with such candor in your column. -- JENNIFER FORDAN-HERMAN, M.D., VIRGINIA BEACH, VA.
DEAR DR. FORDAN-HERMAN: Several doctors wrote to point out that the girl's problem could be medical in nature rather than cosmetic, and that she should be evaluated by a physician. Having once been a furry teen-ager myself, I assumed that she could deal with the problem cosmetically -- shaving, waxing, bleaching, etc.
I would like to address the other issue you mentioned. Adolescents may be notorious for neglecting their health, but they are still minors. It is their parents' job to make sure the health and well-being of their children are protected. This includes ensuring annual checkups with the eye doctor, dentist and primary-care physician. It also includes ensuring that teen-agers understand the importance of good nutrition and exercise. There is no excuse for young adults to be underimmunized and without the information they need in order to remain healthy.
DEAR ABBY: May I suggest that you follow your column promoting Pet Adoptathon 2000 with this brief postscript -- license your pet! Licensing your dog or cat is part of the proper care and attention that, as you explained, all pets deserve. Every year, thousands of lost pets are reunited with their loving families because they are wearing a current license or have other identification, such as a microchip. Tragically, many lost pets who are not licensed become statistics.
Here in King County, Washington, our Pet Partnership Program is successfully promoting pet licenses. We are working with suburban cities and pet owners throughout our region to spread this important message and to encourage residents to be responsible pet owners. This is a key element of saving and promoting the lives of our faithful animal companions. -- RON SIMS, KING COUNTY EXECUTIVE, SEATTLE
DEAR RON: I'm pleased to publicize this important reminder. Every pet deserves to have an identity. Should it get lost, a license could mean the difference between life and death. Readers wanting information about pet licenses should call their city or county animal regulation department and inquire.
What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)
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