DEAR DR. DONOHUE: We live in the South, where mosquitoes are very bad, even in cool weather. I have a 6-year-old grandson who seems to attract mosquitoes. When he was younger, he’d scratch the bites and make sores. Now he rubs them when they itch. The doctor gave him an ointment to apply to stop itching.

The other day he was bitten right by his eye and on his ear. When I bathed him the next night, he had bites on his shoulder and lower arm. There were so swollen that they formed a knot. The next day the swelling went down, but the bite was still red. I am at a loss about what to do. Should tests be run? Is he more allergic than other children? Will he outgrow this? I spray him and his clothes before he goes outside. — M.

ANSWER: Some people attract mosquitoes. It’s due to the amount of carbon dioxide those people emit, along with other chemicals that attract mosquitoes. Giant mosquito bites might be a newly named syndrome called skeeter syndrome. I’m not kidding — there really is such a thing. It happens mostly to infants and young children. The mosquito bite gives rise to an itchy, giant hive that enlarges over eight to 12 hours and takes three to 10 days to go away. It’s the mosquito’s saliva that’s responsible for this reaction. Children do outgrow it.

What mosquito repellent do you spray on the boy? Ones that contain DEET are good. So are ones that have picardin. For greater protection, apply a repellent containing permethrin on his clothes. Read the labels carefully to see when they need to be reapplied.

Antihistamines lessen the itch. Cetrizine, fexofenadine and loratadine are good ones. If the ointment you use works, continue. If it doesn’t, try cortisone cream or calamine lotion.

I can’t give you 100 percent assurance that your grandson has this syndrome. Why not check it out with the family doctor when the boy has new giant bites?

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: For the past three months I have been bothered with hiccups. They don’t last long, many spells just five or six at a time, but they happen frequently during the day. Sometimes I wake up in the morning with them. It doesn’t appear that this is a serious problem. My doctor isn’t alarmed. I would like to know if this is a symptom of some other problem. I am 72, and other than taking a blood pressure pill, I am in great shape. Hiccup. Sorry. — Anon.

ANSWER: Let me give you some remedies recommended by readers for short bursts of hiccups. Inhale deeply and then quickly exhale; repeat as needed. Or inhale, hold the inhaled air for a count of 10 and then slowly exhale. Breathing into a paper bag has been a ploy that’s been used nearly since the days of cavemen. Another maneuver is to press firmly with the heel of the hand into the upper abdomen, right below the breastbone. Swallowing a spoonful of sugar is supposed to irritate the throat and initiate a reflex that stops hiccups. Another trick is to drink from a glass of water with lips on the rim opposite to the usual side used for drinking. Or you might want to try the 13-year-old entrepreneur’s lollipop of apple cider, vinegar and sugar.

Constant hiccups can be a sign of trouble. Multiple sclerosis, heart attacks, strokes and many tumors are possible causes. An imbalance of body minerals — sodium, potassium and calcium — are said to provoke long-lasting hiccups. The list of causes for chronic hiccups is quite long. Since you have no other signs of illness, it would be unusual that your hiccups are the result of anything life-threatening. However, if they continue for another three or four weeks, go back to the doctor.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am 63 and had two different types of malaria while in Vietnam when I was 20. Now I have nerve problems in my lower back and excruciating pain in my legs and knees. I have been to many doctors, but none of the recommended treatments has made me feel any better.

My question is whether my nerve and muscle issues could have any connection to the malaria I had. — B.J.

ANSWER: I saw many cases of malaria when I was in Vietnam. I can assure you with reasonable certitude that the malaria you had decades ago is not responsible for your current back, leg and knee pain.

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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