DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am a black woman writing on behalf of my boyfriend. He has a crop of little bumps on his face. I asked him if they are pimples, and he laughed. He said they’re shaving bumps. How does he get rid of them? – R.C.

ANSWER:
Men of any race can develop shaving bumps. Black men’s hair is more tightly coiled, and they, therefore, are quite susceptible to them. If a man cuts his facial hair too closely to the skin, it can spring back toward the skin and penetrate it. Tightly coiled hair is especially prone to this. The sharp end of the hair pushing back into the skin acts like a foreign body. It irritates the skin and inflames it. A little bump forms.

It must be a chore for your boyfriend to shave. To get rid of the bumps, he has to stop shaving until they go away. He also has to dislodge all the hairs that have penetrated the skin. He can do this by taking a clean needle and slipping it under the loop that the hair makes. Then he pops the end of the hair out of the skin. When he frees all the ingrown hairs and stops shaving, his skin will clear.

To prevent new bumps when he resumes shaving, he has to adopt a different shaving style. He must soften his beard with soap and warm water before using a razor. He will do himself a favor by buying an electric razor and putting it on a setting that doesn’t shave the beard too closely. With either a blade or an electric shaver, he should shave in the direction of hair growth, and he shouldn’t pull his skin taut.

If he goes through all this and doesn’t meet with success, he’ll have to see a doctor. In fact, if his shaving bumps are crusted with dried pus, he should start out by seeing a doctor. The pus indicates infection, and he’ll need an antibiotic cream to get rid of any infection.

If your boyfriend is squeamish about freeing the ingrown hairs with a needle, you can do the job for him. You’re the one who set all this in motion.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My dad had a very bad case of shingles. He’s getting over them. We plan to visit my parents during the Christmas holidays. We have an 8-month-old baby whom they haven’t seen. Is the baby in any danger of catching shingles from my dad? – C.B.

ANSWER:
The baby isn’t going to catch shingles from your dad. No one is. Shingles is the chickenpox virus that lives on in a person from the first day it infected that person.

If a person with shingles is at the stage where the rash has fluid in it, there is a possibility that others who never had chickenpox could catch the chickenpox virus and become ill with chickenpox. That’s a remote but theoretically conceivable scenario.

Once the shingles rash dries, there is no chance of transmitting the virus to anyone.

The booklet on shingles describes this illness and its treatments. To order a copy, write: Dr. Donohue – No. 1201, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6.75 Can. with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: About a month ago, while doing sit-ups, I felt something pop in the area around my bellybutton, and I saw a little bulge there. It’s soft and doesn’t hurt. Is this a hernia? – R.B.

ANSWER:
It could be an umbilical hernia. The umbilicus is the navel or bellybutton, whatever you want to call it. It’s the place where the umbilical cord attached to the fetus. For some, it’s a weak spot in the abdominal wall.

A hernia is a protrusion of organs or tissues through such a weak spot. You should have a doctor examine this for a definite call.

If it is a hernia, it probably would have developed whether you were doing sit-ups or doing anything else that increases pressure within the abdominal cavity. The sit-ups didn’t create the weak spot. It’s been there from birth.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am requesting some information on Pap smears. I have two daughters; one is 21, and the other is 18. When should they begin getting these smears?

And for me, when can I stop getting them? I am 50. – A.H.

ANSWER
: The Pap smear is one of the most remarkable tests ever devised. They’re responsible for halving the number of deaths from cervical cancer. No woman should neglect getting them.

Young women ought to begin Pap smears within three years of having sexual relations or at age 21, whichever comes first. They should continue with yearly Pap smears until age 30.

At age 30, if the doctor concurs and if a woman has had three consecutive normal Pap smears, she can lengthen the time between smears to every two or three years.

At what age women can stop having these tests is something that’s debated. If a woman is 65 or 70, the age is the debated point, and if she has had three consecutive normal smears, has had no abnormal tests in the previous 10 years and has no risk factors for coming down with cervical cancer, then she and her doctor can call off continuing the tests.

In addition to the Pap smear, a new development in the prevention of cervical cancer is the vaccine that protects against it. The vaccine prevents infection with the cancer-causing papillomaviruses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises 11- and 12-year-old girls to obtain the vaccine, which is given in a series of three shots. Females between the ages of 12 and 26 can also get the vaccine, and they are encouraged to do so. The vaccine works best when a girl has not had previous exposure to the papillomavirus.

The booklet on Pap smears and cervical cancer discusses both topics in detail. Readers can obtain a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue – No. 1102, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6.75 Can. with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.

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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