Not all herpes infections are sexually transmitted


DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My baby is 1 year and 1 week old. About two weeks ago, he refused to eat and felt hot. I took him to the doctor, and the doctor said he had roseola. He predicted that the baby would break out in a rash. The doctor was right. Two days later, he broke out in a rash that covered most of his body. Everything seemed to get better once the rash appeared. What has me on edge is the doctor saying it was a herpes infection. The only herpes infection I know is a sexual infection. This can’t be the same thing my boy had, can it? — L.H.

 ANSWER: Roseola is not a sexually transmitted disease, but it is a herpes infection. There are eight herpes viruses, and each one causes a different illness. Herpes-1 is the virus that causes cold sores (fever blisters is another name). Herpes-2 is the sexually transmitted illness. Herpes-6 is the virus that caused your son’s illness, roseola, a common childhood infection.

 Roseola starts out suddenly with a sharp temperature spike. It can reach 104 F (40 C). At the same time, the child becomes irritable and stops eating. The fever lasts around four days and then disappears as quickly as it came.

 Once the fever goes, the child breaks out in a red rash that starts on the neck and trunk, and eventually spreads to the face, arms and legs. It looks like measles. The rash makes the child look sick, but he actually is feeling quite well. It goes away in one or two days.

 Your son should suffer no consequences from this illness. It strikes children mostly between the ages of 7 months and 13 months. Forget the herpes reference. It adds no useful information; it only confuses.

 TO READERS: Older readers are eager for information on vertigo (dizziness). It’s a widespread complaint of older people. The booklet on vertigo explains its causes and treatments. Readers can obtain a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue — No 801, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.50 U.S./ $6 Can. with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.

 DEAR DR. DONOHUE: How does a person know if his blood pressure is high? What are the symptoms he has? I have never seen a doctor except when I was in the Army. That was 30 years ago. I am 52 now, and I got to thinking that I should know what my blood pressure is. — F.L.

 ANSWER: For most people, high blood pressure (hypertension) is symptomless. They have no inkling they have it. It makes itself known when people have a heart attack or stroke. It’s during the silent period that it does its damage. That’s the time when you want it detected so that its consequences are prevented.

 Somehow, it has become ingrained in popular lore that high blood pressure causes headaches. It doesn’t usually do so. Only if the pressure is very high does it bring on a headache, and then the headache is felt in the back of the head and frequently in the early-morning hours.

 Obesity, a diet with too much salt (the typical American diet), excessive use of alcohol and a family history of high blood pressure are some of the risks for developing it. For unexplained reasons, high blood pressure is more common in blacks than in any other ethnic group.

 The only way you’ll learn your blood pressure is to have a nurse or doctor take it. Fifty-two isn’t old age, but it is a time when undesirable things start happening to the body, a blood pressure rise being one of them.

 DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have instructed my granddaughters to push back the skin around their fingernails so they don’t get hangnails. My daughter-in-law says this is nonsense. I’ve done this all my life, and I have had very few hangnails. — D.K.

 ANSWER: The narrow band of skin surrounding the nail is the cuticle. Pushing it back doesn’t prevent hangnails. It’s a belief held by many people.

Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Readers may also order health newsletters from