DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Our 18-month-old son had Kawasaki’s (just like the motorcycle) disease. He was hospitalized for 10 days and was given intravenous medications. We understand it could affect his heart. How will we know if this happens? How did he get this, and how common is it? – J.Z.

ANSWER: Dr. Kawasaki, the Japanese pediatrician in whose honor this illness was named, described it in 1967. It’s believed to be an infectious disease, but, to date, no bacterium or virus has been identified as its cause. Nor has its mode of spread been discovered.

It’s not a common illness. About 3,000 North American infants come down with it annually. The attack rate is highest for children in their first two years, and 85 percent of cases occur in youngsters 5 or younger.

One important feature of the illness is a fever greater than 102 F (39 C) for five days. Other criteria consist of four or more of the following: red eyes; red, swollen, cracked lips, often with a strawberry-colored tongue; a skin rash that takes many forms; enlarged neck lymph nodes; reddened palms and soles; and skin peeling after the rash has been present for a few days or more.

Treatment consists of giving intravenous immunoglobulins (antibodies) along with aspirin and sometimes a cortisone drug.

Kawasaki’s greatest threat is the formation of aneurysms – bulges on arteries. They have a proclivity to occur on heart arteries, and they might not appear until long after the illness has gone. Echocardiograms – sound wave pictures of the heart – show the aneurysms, and they will be the way aneurysms are detected in your son.

The treatment your son received greatly lessened his chances of forming aneurysms.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: After prostate surgery, I have had trouble controlling my urine. I have seen you write about exercises women can do for this problem. Do those exercises work for men? How are they done? – D.S.

ANSWER: Those exercises are the Kegel exercises, and they can work for men.

Here is how to do them. While urinating, stop the stream. The muscles you use to do that are the ones you want to exercise. When not urinating, contract those muscles just as you did to stop the urine stream. Hold the contraction for a couple of seconds, relax, and repeat the procedure 10 times in a row. If you can complete another set of 10 contractions, do so.

Performing these exercises three or four times a day should bring results in a month or two – if they are going to work. I believe you will see a difference.

The prostate gland is a little gland that causes many men big troubles. The pamphlet describing it and its many maladies gives men an outline of what can go wrong with the gland and what can be done to fix it. To order a copy, write to: Dr. Donohue – No. 1001, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.50 U.S./$6.50 Can. with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Since beginning blood pressure medicine, I have gotten dizzy spells. I never had them before taking the medicine, and I think it has been the cause. Is dizziness a side effect of blood pressure medicine? I am going to stop taking it if it is. – C.R.

ANSWER: If a person’s blood pressure drops too low after beginning medicine, dizziness can result.

The dizziness most often occurs when a person rises from bed or from a chair. Assuming the vertical position causes blood to pool in the legs, and that, in turn, drops blood pressure. Add that sudden drop in blood pressure to the lowered blood pressure brought on by medicine, and too little blood gets to the brain. Dizziness results.

Your doctor can unravel all this for you with a few simple tests. Don’t stop your medicine before talking to the doctor. There are many other causes for dizziness, and it’s not wise to put the blame on medicine until proof is established.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have a lung infection that is supposed to be like TB. I am still undergoing tests. This scares me, and I have many questions. Would you answer a few? Do I have to go to a sanitarium for treatment? Can I give it to others? Is there treatment, and what is it? – E.E.

ANSWER: Without knowing the name of your infection, I have to make a jump to answer your questions. I am fairly certain you are talking about a lung infection with MAC – Mycobacterium (MIKE-oh-back-TEER-ee-um) avium complex. “Mycobacterium” is the family name for a large number of slightly different bacteria that include the TB germ. MAC is another family member.

The MAC germ is found everywhere – in soil, on food, in house dust and in water. It is usually a harmless germ, and most people handle it without ever becoming sick. Once in a while it can cause lung infections. When the germ is found in the sputum of a person who has a lung infection, the doctor is faced with the task of deciding if the MAC germ is the true cause of the infection or if it is just a disinterested bystander. The decision rests on how many MAC germs are in the sputum, the number of times the germ is found in subsequent sputum exams, the appearance of the patient’s chest X-ray, and the patient’s symptoms, such as cough, blood-tinged phlegm, breathlessness, fever and a run-down feeling.

You do not have to go to a sanitarium for treatment.

You don’t pass this infection to others.

There is treatment. Two and sometimes three antibiotics are given for as long as a year.

This infection used to be a rarity. It no longer is. The reason why is unknown. People whose immune systems are in disarray are prone to infection with it.

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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