Dr Tom Smith answers your questions

Do some like it too hot?

I drink a lot of tea without milk, usually piping hot. A friend suggested there is new evidence that this could raise my risk of cancer of the oesophagus.

That evidence is from a British Medical Journal report of a study in northern Iran, where some people drink tea at temperatures above 70C. The results are solid because they aren't complicated by other possible cancer-inducing factors such as alcohol or smoking, and the researchers measured the temperature of the tea as it was drunk. There were twice as many oesophageal cancers, proportionately, in people who drank their tea "very hot" than in those who drank it lukewarm. So let the tea cool for five minutes. Don't stop drinking tea - it has health advantages that counterbalance this evidence from Iran.

Is an older father bad for his kid's brains

We are constantly hearing that children born of older mothers (more than 40 or so) are at higher risk of having intellectual problems than those born of 20-year-old women. But what about fathers? Is there any evidence that children of older fathers are at a disadvantage?

The only study I can find is in American children born around 1960, and followed up until they were tested at age seven. The children of the oldest fathers scored slightly poorer than other children in tests of concentration, memory and learning abilities, even when social circumstances and the mother's age were taken into consideration. Overall IQ test results (for what they are worth) scored 105 for the children of 20-year-old fathers and 103 for 50-year-old fathers. But here is the surprise. The children of the older mothers did better in all the tests than those of the youngest mothers! I'm waiting for the experts to explain the difference.

Allergic to alcohol

My sister has recently developed some sort of allergy to alcohol. She now gets a rash as soon as she has a drink. Her skin goes bright red and itchy, and her heart rate increases.

Several possible causes spring to mind. One is that it isn't the alcohol but additives in red wine to which she is now reacting. If she can drink, say, spirits without having the rash, then that points to something in the wine other than alcohol as the cause. If it happens regardless of the type of drink, then she can blame the alcohol.

If that is the case, then something has changed in the way her liver deals with alcohol. Her doctor would probably like to check on her liver function, which means an examination and perhaps blood tests. Until that is dealt with, she should avoid alcohol. A last thought - is she taking prescription drugs? These symptoms are typical of a medication-alcohol interaction. She may be able to switch to a medicine that doesn't interact in this way.

Help! My ears crackle

I have had crackling noises in both ears for five years. It started after a cold. Decongestants haven't helped. It is worse during the night when I am feeding our youngest. What can I do?

Please see your doctor. This sounds like classic Eustachian tube blockage, and may be curable by a simple ENT procedure. The fact that you don't have hearing loss or dizziness helps to pinpoint the problem. Decongestants are the first choice of treatment, but specialist help is the next step.

• Do you have a question for Dr Smith? Email doctordoctor@guardian.co.uk

Thanks to guardian.co.uk who have provided this article. View the original here.


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