DEAR DR. DONOHUE: What would you do if your daughter had a Gardasil shot and then found out she was pregnant? – Anon.

Gardasil vaccine – commonly called the cancer vaccine – contains no living organisms, viruses or bacteria. It’s composed of the remnants of four viruses, two of which are the viruses most responsible for cervical cancer and two of which are responsible for most genital warts. Those viruses belong to the human papillomavirus family. In laboratory animals given 300 times the dose used in humans, no harm came to the animals or to their fetuses – a reassuring fact.

During human trials, the vaccine was inadvertently given to a few pregnant women or to a few women who became pregnant soon after having the vaccination. Women who had been pregnant for longer than 30 days before the vaccine experienced no trouble and their babies suffered no more ill effects than babies born to unvaccinated women. Women who became pregnant within 30 days of receiving the vaccine had babies with slightly more congenital abnormalities than unvaccinated women. It is not known if those abnormalities were linked to the vaccine.

Presently, the vaccine should not be given to pregnant women until more information is available.

If my daughter were pregnant and had the vaccine, I would do what the manufacturer Merck and Co. suggests. Call its toll-free number, 800-986-8999, so the company can keep track of the woman and her baby. I would also be encouraged by the lab data that shows no ill effects from the vaccine, although I would, like any other parent, have some slight worry.

The human papillomavirus story is told in the booklet on herpes and genital warts. The vaccine is not discussed. Readers can order a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue – No. 1203, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6 Can. with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: For the past few weeks I have had sudden nosebleeds. No pain. They happen at home, occasionally when I wake in the morning. Can you explain the probable cause? I was told to buy a humidifier. – M.H.

Most nosebleeds originate in the front of the nose, in the area just inside the nostril, where the covering layer becomes dry. The dry layer flakes and breaks off with the slightest trauma. Furthermore, in older people, that layer thins out and becomes even more vulnerable to breaking and bleeding.

Moisturizing the front of the nose with a dab of petroleum jelly (Vaseline) on a cotton-tipped applicator keeps the lining healthy. A humidifier is a great idea if your house is dry.

Should nosebleeds recur and recur, report to the family doctor, who can check for any clotting disorders, high blood pressure or other rare illnesses.

To stop a bleeding nose, sit or stand and lean slightly forward while pinching both sides of the nose between the thumb and index finger, and hold pressure there for 15 minutes. You will have to breathe through your mouth.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Is there any benefit to drinking pure gelatin? I’ve been told it goes directly to the bones and prevents osteoarthritis. – D.R.

I can’t find any support for that benefit of gelatin. I wouldn’t bet the family farm on it.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Can a tuberculosis skin test on a pregnant woman render her unborn child mildly retarded? – F.K.

It is virtually impossible for a TB skin test to have any ill effect on an unborn child.

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

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