Q: My husband and I are trying to have a baby, and we live along the Gulf Coast. I am terrified that the Zika virus will get here and we won’t know it! Should we put off trying to get pregnant? -- Susan G., Biloxi, Mississippi
A: You and millions of other women are worried about this globe-hopping, mosquito-transmitted disease that’s the suspected cause of microcephaly in fetuses. Children born with microcephaly have a smaller-than-normal head and often suffer developmental, intellectual, hearing, vision, balance and speech problems.
As of this writing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a Level 2 travel alert to all women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, saying that they should exercise “enhanced precautions” if traveling to any of 23 countries in the Americas (including Puerto Rico), Samoa and Cape Verde or anywhere else that the virus has been reported; you can expect that to expand. Those precautions include using Environmental Protection Agency-certified insect repellants, sleeping under mosquito netting, staying indoors in air conditioning or in rooms with good screens, wearing long-sleeved tops and slacks, and wearing permethrin-treated items. But we worry about women who are pregnant using some of these precautionary chemicals; put insect repellant on your skin-covering clothing, not your skin! And since the virus can be spread through sexual activity, you’ll want to consider where your partner has traveled, and use a condom.
For most folks, the virus causes only minor symptoms, so young, old, male or female, if you’ve traveled to an infected area and have fever, rash, joint pain or red eyes, get a blood test! Health officials need to know each case: During the first week of infection, Zika virus can be found in the blood and primarily passed from an infected person to a mosquito through a mosquito bite -- and then passed on to others who the mosquito bites.
Although the World Health Organization is sounding an alarm, it’s too early to know how extensively Zika will appear in the U.S. Researchers are working diligently on developing a vaccine to prevent Zika. Let’s hope that happens soon!
In the meantime, follow the CDC (www.cdc.gov/zika) for the latest information.
Q: My pediatrician says I have to help my 7-year-old son lose weight and keep it off. But I can’t make him eat food he doesn’t like, and I can’t make him play baseball or swim if he says he isn’t interested. What can I do? -- Kesha J., Nashville, Tennessee
A: This is a problem facing many parents, and solutions often are elusive, but you do need to do something about it. Here’s why: Around 70 percent of overweight kids have one cardiovascular risk factor, such as high blood pressure or elevated lousy LDL cholesterol, and 39 percent have two or more. They’re also prone to Type 2 diabetes, asthma, sleep apnea, fatty liver disease and self-esteem issues.
Now, how to help him get to a healthy weight and stay there?
Set an example: Serve and eat only fresh fruits and vegetables, unprocessed foods like 100 percent whole grains, and cut out all added sugars, syrups, trans fats and most foods with saturated fats. Don’t bring them in the house.
Teach mindful eating: A Vanderbilt University study shows obese children’s impulsivity center in the brain is overactive. Mindfulness -- slowing down impulsivity -- may help kids control poor eating behaviors. In other words, the research indicates that to lose weight, kids may need to change how their brain functions, not just improve nutrition and exercise habits.
Here are the steps, but don’t force them. Dish up a healthful dinner. Then say in a calm, moderate tone, for example: What shape is your spinach? (Wait patiently for an answer) What color? Do you notice a smell? Don’t object if you get a sassy answer, just go with the flow. Then have him place the food in his mouth and notice changes on his tongue. Then, while chewing slowly, ask him to notice how the food tastes and to calmly feel it going down as he swallows.
Do that once at every meal until the steps become a habit. And try it yourself. You’ll be surprised at what you’ve been missing in every bite.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at firstname.lastname@example.org.