DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My 7-year-old daughter has large breasts. In all other respects, she’s quite normal. Should I have her checked? I have two other daughters, both older than she, and neither developed like this. Is it normal? – K.S.

ANSWER:
Breast development is one of the first signs that puberty is occurring in a girl. But at early ages, they are not large breasts. Breasts start out as round lumps that are barely visible. It happens around age 9, sometimes age 8. Only 7 percent of white girls and a slightly higher percentage of black girls show the onset of breast development at age 7. Your daughter’s development is out of the bounds of what’s considered normal.

Other signs of puberty include underarm hair and pubic hair. The first menstrual period most often happens a few months after the 12th birthday, but there’s quite a variance in its onset.

For sure, have your daughter checked. Her development might be nothing more than puberty occurring at a very early age. However, it might signal significant problems too. An example is a brain tumor, which can kick-start puberty at a very young age. The doctor will have the girl’s sex hormones measured, and if they are way high, he or she will pursue the matter with other tests.

Puberty that comes at a very early age can have undesirable consequences. It can stop growth at a young age too, and that can stunt the girl’s height. If the doctor feels it’s in her best interest, he or she can put the brakes on her development so that it slows down and arrives at a later date.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Five weeks ago, my husband had bypass surgery. He was doing well and was at home for a week when he suddenly became quite short of breath. I called 911.

It turns out that fluid had formed in his lungs, and that’s what was making him so breathless.

The emergency-room doctor stuck a needle into his chest and drained the fluid. My husband began to breathe with much less effort. The doctor said he could go home, but he also said that he had not been able to drain all the fluid.

What happens to the fluid left in his lungs? No medicines were prescribed. Shouldn’t he be taking something? – R.C.

ANSWER:
Your husband had fluid around his lungs, not in them. A double-ply, cellophane-like sac covers the lungs. That sac is the pleura. Between the two pleural leaves is a space into which fluid can leak. An accumulation of fluid in that space is a pleural effusion. That’s what your husband had.

If the effusion is large, it compresses the lung and makes breathing difficult. Needle drainage of the fluid restores normal breathing quickly. Pleural effusions are often consequences of chest surgery. The body absorbs the small amount of fluid left in the pleural space. Your husband doesn’t need any medicine.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am a waitress. Naturally, I am on my feet all day long. When I get home and kick off my shoes, my feet have a terrible odor. I take a daily shower. If I bathe more often, my skin dries out. Is there some way to control this smell? – C.M.

ANSWER:
One way to decrease foot odor is to keep the feet as dry as possible.

When you go to work, take with you a change of stockings. If you can get two stocking changes in while you’re at work, all the better. Wear shoes that have openings in them for ventilation.

Never wear the same shoes two days in a row. Give them a chance to thoroughly dry.

You don’t have to take lots of showers every day, but you can wash your feet before going to work and immediately upon coming home. Dry them with a hair dryer. After they’ve dried, spray them, top and bottom, with an antiperspirant that has aluminum chloride in it.

At night, before going to bed, spray your feet with a solution of sodium bicarbonate. Put half a teaspoon of bicarbonate in a cup of water. This spray changes the acidity of the skin and gets rid of some of the odor-producing germs that cling to the feet.

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 www.rbmamall.com


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