Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

Couple's Self Diagnosis Didn't Cure Their S.T.D.

DEAR ABBY: "Gary" and I were married two months ago. For our honeymoon, we took a cruise to the eastern Caribbean.

One week after our return, I came down with a yeast infection that I treated with an over-the-counter medication. A few days later, Gary got what we thought was a urinary tract infection, which we treated with lots of water and cranberry juice. When neither of our conditions improved, we went to the doctor, who diagnosed us both with chlamydia.

We were shocked! Gary and I had both tested negative for all STDs before we were married. The nurse asked if we had been in a hot tub recently, and we replied that we'd spent many hours in hot tubs on the cruise ship. The nurse then informed us that chlamydia is a bacteria, and bacteria love warm, moist environments -- like hot tubs. She said it was the most likely source of this disease in our case.

We contacted the cruise line and told them that their hot tubs were not clean and asked them to reimburse us for the cost of our prescriptions. The man I spoke to refused and accused me of lying.

I know you can't help me with the cruise line, Abby, but I want to warn your readers about public hot tubs. Perhaps it will save others from contracting a disease like we did. -- CONTAMINATED IN OHIO

DEAR OHIO: Thank you for wanting to spare others your unfortunate experience.

After reading your letter, I contacted the Centers for Disease Control National STD and AIDS Hotline (1-800-342-2437). I was told that chlamydia is NOT transmitted by sitting in or on the rim of a hot tub, nor by any other inanimate object. It is transmitted through genital contact.

Two diseases that "potentially" can be spread in and around swimming pools and hot tubs -- although it has NOT been well-documented -- are trichomoniasis (a parasite) and molluscum contagiosum (a virus), which can also be transmitted from unclean towels or bathing suits.

The most important thing your letter illustrates to me is how important it is for people to be properly diagnosed, rather than treating themselves with over-the-counter remedies.

DEAR ABBY: I am a 24-year-old single mother of a 3-year-old daughter. I was physically and verbally abused by both of my parents. I no longer live with them. However, I try to have a good relationship with them. They are the only support system I have.

I have no one except my parents to watch my child, but I see them starting to yell at her. When I mention that yelling is not good for my daughter, they accuse me of being "overly protective." Can you tell me how to deal with this? I am still trying to overcome the temper I developed while living with them. -- IN A BIND IN BATON ROUGE

DEAR IN A BIND: Under no circumstances should your parents baby-sit your child. It's time for you to find another baby sitter and to build another support system. Start by reaching out to fellow church members, other single parents and contemporaries. You could also benefit by attending a parenting class with other young mothers. There you will learn about child development and meet other single parents who are struggling with issues similar to yours.

To order "How to Write Letters for All Occasions," send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Letter Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600