Hello, dear readers, and welcome back to our monthly letters column. We’re happy to report that you’ve kept our mailboxes full, so we’ll dive right in.
-- Pet-related topics always get a lot of mail, and a recent column about a study into the health benefits of living with a dog was no different. A reader from Tulsa, Oklahoma, wrote to say that limited mobility need not be a barrier to canine companionship. “People who are physically unable to walk a dog outdoors can experience the joy provided by a pet and the other benefits of pet ownership, particularly with a small breed,” she wrote. “They can be trained to use potty pads indoors. We recently adopted a 3-year-old rescue Chihuahua who quickly learned to use the potty pads. As I write this, my current ‘favorite child’ is right here beside me. Life is just better with a pet in your lap.”
-- A reader from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, who volunteers at a local hospital with her therapy dog, wrote to say she sees the happiness that a dog imparts with every visit. “It’s refreshing to read about how dogs make a difference in the healing process. I witness that emotion every time we visit,” she wrote. “And, as you pointed out, the nurses, doctors and support staff all love interacting with the dogs as well."
-- In response to a column about carpal tunnel syndrome, a reader from Fresno, California, found that a small tweak to his work habits made a big difference to the severe carpal tunnel pain he experienced while using a mouse during computer work. “I went to several doctors, but ultimately decided to just move the mouse to the left side of the keyboard,” he wrote. “It was awkward for about a week, but eventually I adapted, and after two months, the pain was gone.” Since then, he switches hands on the first day of each month and reports, “my carpal tunnel pain has never returned.”
-- A column about the flu that mentioned that symptoms can be similar to those of a bad cold left a reader in Spokane, Washington, confused. “All my life -- 62 years -- the flu has been referred to as an illness with symptoms such as fever, stomach upset or vomiting, lack of appetite, diarrhea and achiness, and it seems to take longer to get well from than a cold,” he wrote. “Have I been confused about what flu really is?” To clarify, the flu is an infection of the influenza virus. It typically shares respiratory symptoms with the common cold, and can cause the additional symptoms that you mention. The diagnostic difference between the flu and a cold is the virus that causes each infection. And, as you mention, the flu lasts longer than a cold and tends to be more severe.
That’s it for this month. Thank you again for all of your questions, tips, comments and kind words. We love hearing from you. And just a reminder to new readers -- we can’t make a diagnosis, recommend medications or offer a second opinion.
(Send your questions to email@example.com, 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.)