Dr. Roach

Dr. Keith Roach

DEAR DR. ROACH: There is much mainstream news recently about the health risks of using natural gas appliances. I am 75 and have survived playing with mercury from broken thermometers as a child, a lifetime of cooking and home heating, and hot water from natural gas. I certainly don’t advise playing with mercury, but how seriously should I, and other apparent survivors, be about natural gas in our actuarial calculations? — C.E.H.
ANSWER: The reason for concern with natural gas stoves is that there is evidence that children are more likely to develop asthma in homes that use natural gas stoves for cooking. This effect was strongest in multifamily homes and did not exist in one analysis concerning single family homes. The effect is thought to be due to nitrogen dioxide (NO2), but benzene (from unburnt natural gas) and fine soot are other possible issues.
Long-term high exposure to NO2 is associated with chronic lung disease and reduced mortality, but these studies have been done based on air pollution, not home exposure from gas stoves. The magnitude of the risk from gas cooking is low, so I think the effect on your expected mortality is likely to be very low. I do not recommend changing your stove based on the expectation of a longer life.
A stove hood that vents to the outside dramatically reduces NO2 levels and reduces asthma risk (and the risk of your child with asthma having an attack). Alternatively, you can switch to an electric stove. (I’ll just note that induction cooktops heat up even faster than gas and are more efficient.)
Finally, playing with mercury is a bad idea, not because liquid mercury is dangerous, but because mercury vapor is. Broken thermometers or light bulbs should be promptly cleaned. Check with your local health department or online at tinyurl.com/mercuryspill on how to do so.
DEAR DR. ROACH: I am a 64-year-old man and have a history of borderline-high blood pressure. The reason I am writing is that, over the last year, I have experienced an abnormal sensation in my mouth. It is hard for me to explain, but my mouth feels really dry all the time. I have also developed white patches on my tongue. My doctor gave me treatment for a fungal infection, and it really did not help. I saw a dentist, and he told me to speak with my primary care provider.
My doctor was worried that it could have been COVID-related, but my senses of taste and smell are fine. I do not remember getting sick, but my blood test did show that I likely had it. I will be seeing another specialist, but was wondering if this really can happen after COVID and what can help to make me feel better. — S.M.
ANSWER: Many people have symptoms that may last for weeks or months after a COVID infection, even one that was so mild that the person didn’t know they had it. Most people have had fatigue, shortness of breath and difficulty thinking (“brain fog”) after a COVID infection, but relatively little attention has been paid to the mouth.
Reported symptoms after COVID include pain, dryness, redness, color changes of the inner mouth and lips, white plaque, fungal infections, various changes of the tongue, and swelling. Further, COVID appears to be able to trigger some diseases of the mouth, such as herpes, lichen planus and Sjogren’s syndrome.
Hard sugar-free candies to promote saliva or mouth moisturizers may help short-term. If this is a post-COVID complication, it should get better over the next several months.
* * *
Dr. Roach regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but will incorporate them in the column whenever possible. Readers may email questions to [email protected] or send mail to 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803.
(c) 2023 North America Syndicate Inc.
All Rights Reserved

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: