Ask the Doctor: smelling smoke, food allergies and depoprovera

Dr. Rob Riley joins us each week from the South Bend Clinic. Here are his responses from July 9th.

Carol: What would cause someone to constantly smell smoke?

The perception of an odor that isn’t really there is called a parosmia. It’s really not all that rare and for some reason it occurs more often in women than in men. The most common causes are sinus conditions, like chronic sinus infections, and things that cause dry mouth, like some medical conditions and even medication side-effects. Usually, treating the underlying cause causes the abnormal odors to go away. If not, doctors may recommend imaging studies of the brain at some point to make sure something more serious isn’t going on.

Stephanie: Why would a 14 year old girl begin to have food allergies she never had before?

Allergies are odd that way. We don’t think we’re born with allergies, we acquire them all at some point. Just how that happens isn’t well understood, but in order for an allergy to develop to something it requires prior exposure to that substance. For whatever reason, the body decides it’s going to start reacting to that substance. We know this is a complicated process, though. For example, in recent years, doctors tried to prevent peanut allergies from arising in kids by restricting their exposure to peanut products as babies. That turned out to increase the risk of developing peanut allergies so we no longer make that recommendation. We do know the tendency to develop allergies tends to run in families and it’s not particularly unusual for new allergies to appear in adolescents or even in adults.

Ashley: What is the best thing to help fight weight gain from depoprovera?

Depoprovera is a preparation of the hormone progesterone that can be given as an injection every three months to prevent pregnancy. It’s highly effective, resulting in a pregnancy rate of less than one percent per year in women who get their injections on time. While the studies are mixed, it seems weight gain is a side-effect of this method of birth control for some women. In some, but not all women, the hormone seems to act as an appetite stimulant. Unfortunately, there’s no magic way to counteract this side-effect. Diet and exercise can help to keep weight down just as they do in all of us. Some women may just decide this potential side-effect outweighs the benefits and may decide to select a different form of birth control.