Q My two-year-old has been "invited" to have yet another jab at our GP surgery. What is the latest jab for and is it safe?
A Each change to the vaccination schedule triggers parental anxiety and near chaos in GP surgeries. The latest one is a Hib booster offered to children born between April 2 1999 and October 1 2002. Your child will have had a course of Hib vaccines at two, three and four months along with diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough. Hib is a bacteria that can cause a range of extremely nasty infections, especially in children under four. The worst is meningitis, but it can also trigger other serious infections such as pneumonia, joint infection and swelling of the back of the throat (epiglottitis). Prior to the vaccination programme Hib killed 30 children a year in England and Wales and caused brain damage in a further 80. Recorded cases fell dramatically at first but are now cropping up again, hence the booster campaign.The cause of this increase is uncertain: it could be a natural phenomenon or immunity from the vaccine wearing off. Hib is one of the safest vaccines around - it has certainly not attracted the controversy of MMR. Many of us feel our kids are over-vaccinated nowadays, but they are healthier and less likely to die under the age of five than ever before. Some argue that vaccination has no part in that, but I think it must. For further details visit www.immunisation.nhs.uk.
Q I ate in a disgusting restaurant last week and saw something crawling on my food. I screamed, insisted the waiter remove my plate and persuaded my friends to leave. The next day I developed stomach pain and went to see my nutritionist who said I'd caught a parasite and advised treatment. I feel so sick about the whole thing and wonder what I should do to get rid of the parasite.
A Yuck. I wouldn't panic, though I can imagine you may be cooking at home for a while. You could also report the restaurant to an environmental health officer at your local council. Insects crop up on salad in the cleanest of places, but if the restaurant would qualify for Life of Grime it need checking out. Ask your GP to send a stool sample for analysis for "ova, cysts and parasites". This directs the microbiologist to inspect your stool for signs of such parasites as whip, hook and round worms. Common causes of gastroenteritis such as salmonella will also show up, though if you're not suffering from vomiting or diarrhoea this is unlikely.
Q I keep getting a red, watery and very painful eye. It feels as though there is something in it, but there's not. I take painkillers for a few days. But by the time I can get an appointment with my doctor, the irritation has cleared up, so I don't go. This happens every few months but other than an occasional headache and cold sore I'm fine in between.
A It sounds like you may be suffering from recurrent attacks of herpes simplex eye infection, the same virus that gives you cold sores. Attacks cause a watery, red, painful eye and blurred vision. It's very rare for both eyes to be affected at once. You need to see a doctor next time you have an attack. Drops of dye (fluorescein) will be used to show any damage to the cornea and confirm diagnosis. You can take oral anti-viral treatment to reduce the frequency and severity of attacks; Aciclovir (Zovirax) ointment will help to relieve the discomfort. Your GP will refer you to an opthalmologist as the virus can scar the cornea and damage your vision. I don't want to make you anxious, but proper advice can save you visual loss later on.
· These answers are intended to be as accurate and full as possible, but should never be used as a substitute for visiting a doctor and seeking medical help. If you have a question for Dr Robinson, email email@example.com or write to her c/o The Health Editor, The Guardian, 119 Farringdon Road, London EC1R 3ER. She regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.