Can anxiety worsen memory loss?
My aunt is in her late 70s and is becoming more forgetful. Now she panics whenever she forgets names and dates, which makes her feel worse. Is this common? Does anxiety worsen memory loss, and is there any way to make the experience less alarming?
Your aunt's condition may not be memory loss but rather a difficulty in recovering data into her consciousness from her memory stores, which is a slightly different problem. You can help by reassuring her that "age-related memory loss" such as this is very common in older people - in fact, it's almost a rule - and that there are many techniques that can help. It's too complex to give details here, but every GP should have access to an NHS memory clinic, where staff are trained to deal with this problem. Once your aunt understands a little more about memory failure, she'll panic less and be less anxious. Anxiety in itself does not worsen memory loss, but it can make it more difficult to treat, so the first priority is to deal with that - the improvement in memory recall will follow with advice and treatment. Her GP may want her to do a mini-mental state test, or similar test of cognition decline, to check that, too.
Is coffee bad for kids?
My six-year-old son has developed a taste for coffee after sipping his father's, and around twice a week, we give him a weak, milky, freshly ground coffee, which he really enjoys. However, I can't help thinking this isn't great for him - should we avoid caffeine drinks altogether?
There's no reason for children to avoid caffeine drinks unless they become overactive after having them, which obviously isn't the case with your son. In fact, it is good that he is developing varied tastes, so don't worry. You are obviously not giving him too much, and he will enjoy sharing grown-up habits with you and your husband, which is both fun and good for you as a family.
What's wrong with my ring finger?
The ring finger of my right hand is curling up. I can't straighten it now, and it gets in the way when I try to grip things. It's not painful, but there seems to be a thickened band in the palm of my hand that's puckering the skin at the base of the finger. Can anything be done?
You almost certainly have a Dupuytren's contracture, in which the tendon to the finger is caught up in the "sheath" - that is, the tunnel in which it runs from wrist to finger. Your doctor will probably refer you to a local hand surgeon, who will consider an operation to correct it. It won't get better by itself - it can only get worse without treatment.
Stung into action
The last time I was stung by a wasp, I reacted very badly - my tongue swelled up and nearly choked me - so I now take a daily antihistamine during the summer to prevent it happening again. A friend says that there's an injection I can give myself if I'm stung. Does it work, and is it dangerous?
It's not as dangerous as another adverse reaction such as the one you describe, which we call anaphylaxis. The injection is delivered by an EpiPen, which is a syringe filled with adrenaline that you carry for use in an emergency. You need to know how to use it, so ask your GP.
• Dr Tom Smith's latest book, Going Loco: Further Adventures Of A Scottish Country Doctor, is published by Short Books at £12.99.
Do you have a question for Dr Smith? Email email@example.com