DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have a 17-year-old grandson who has not had a growth spurt like other boys his age. His growth plates are still opened, so there is room for growth. Testing has shown that he has a growth hormone deficiency. My daughter is hesitant to pursue growth hormone treatments, as she understands there are side effects. I told my family I wanted to hear what Dr. Donohue says. – F.M.

Growth hormone is a product of the pituitary gland at the base of the brain. It does exactly what its name says it does – it stimulates growth.

Growth plates are the sections of bone that have not yet become bone. As long as growth plates have not ossified, then bones can lengthen, and greater height results.

I understand your daughter’s apprehension. A very few children who were given growth hormone developed leukemia, but the link of leukemia to growth hormone is not an absolute one. Many question if there truly is such a link.

I wonder if your daughter fears the side effects that happens to some adults when they take growth hormone. Those side effects do not happen to children.

Your grandson fits the profile of a child who would immensely benefit from treatment with growth hormone. He’s short for his age. His genes have not destined him to be short. (I am presuming that.) His growth has lagged far behind children of his age. His growth plates are still open. His blood level of growth hormone is low.

You can tell your daughter that I would not hesitate for a moment to give a son of mine growth hormone treatments if he filled all the criteria your grandson fills.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have just finished baby-sitting for my 3-year-old grandchild while his parents took a short vacation. He had diarrhea, and I took his temperature. It was up, so I gave him fluids and had him stay quiet.

The following day he woke and felt warm. His cheeks were beet-red. I rushed him to a doctor, who told me he had fifth disease and not to worry. He said the illness would run its course in a short time. Fifth what? – R.J.

Fifth disease is a common childhood illness. It can strike adults, too, but most cases occur in youngsters. It’s a viral illness.

It happens exactly as you describe. A child might complain of a headache and could have diarrhea. Within the next two days, his or her cheeks become fiery red. Then a measles-like rash covers the trunk, arms and legs. The entire illness is over within three weeks at most. There is no treatment other than making the child comfortable and giving him or her fluids and perhaps Tylenol.

It got the name “fifth disease” in bygone years. At one time, look-alike childhood rashes were assigned a number. Measles, scarlet fever, rubella (German measles) and Filatov-Dukes disease were numbers one through four.

Fifth disease has another name – erythema infectiosum. Maybe it’s better to keep calling it fifth disease. The other name has a formidable sound.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I read that a person who takes high blood pressure medicine should not take Naprosyn. I have high blood pressure, and I take Naprosyn often for my arthritis. What is this combination doing to me? I had never heard the two were incompatible. – R.O.

Naprosyn is an NSAID, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug. The NSAID family is huge, and the number of people taking such drugs is similarly huge. Examples of some other NSAIDs are Motrin, Aleve, Daypro, Feldene, Orudis, Advil and Voltaren. I am sure readers will have taken one or more of these drugs at some time in their lives.

NSAIDs in some people cause fluid retention, which, in turn, raises blood pressure, partially blunting the effect of blood pressure medicine. If this does not happen to you, then you can use both without fear. Your doctor will know for sure.

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.

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