Ask the Doctor with Rob Riley - December 17

Dr. Rob Riley stopped by 16 News Now at Noon to answer your weekly medical questions on December 17th.

Question 1: "I had an ear infection. No more pain or fever but my hearing hasn’t returned. What’s going on and how do I fix it?"

Middle ear infections occur when fluid builds up in the middle ear space, usually as a result of a viral infection, and then that fluid becomes secondarily infected with bacteria. That causes the inflammation that causes our symptoms—pain, pressure, and fever. Antibiotics, working together with the body’s immune system, are effective at getting rid of the bacteria and causing those symptoms to go away—often within just a few days.

But the fluid in the middle ear that set up the infection in the first place may take weeks to resolve entirely. That fluid interferes with the ear drum’s ability to vibrate in response to sound waves so we don’t hear as well. Typically, the fluid goes away on its own and our hearing returns to normal.

But unfortunately, it takes time so patience is appropriate. But if hearing loss is severe, worsening, or not resolved in a month or so, it’s good to let your doctor take a look.

Question 2: "Is it OK to give a toddler a break from fluids to help stop vomiting so he can rest?"

Toddlers often get illnesses associated with vomiting. Usually these are caused by viruses and the kids stop vomiting within a day or two as their immune systems kick in.

The only real threat of these illnesses is dehydration. The combination of decreased drinking, fluid losses from the vomiting, and increased loss of fluid from the skin as a result of a fever can cause kids to get behind—sometimes even so much as to require intravenous fluids. So a short break from fluids to allow the stomach to settle a bit is OK, but we really need to make sure these kids are getting enough fluid.

Sometimes parents try to give lots of fluid all at once. That can stretch the stomach and cause more vomiting sometimes. If you give small amounts of fluid frequently, say even just a teaspoonful every five minutes over a period of a couple of hours, you end up getting quite a bit of fluid in without stirring things up. Medication can be given for vomiting if needed, so if vomiting is severe or persistent, be sure to contact your doctor.

Question 3: "How much have IUD’s and copper toxicity been studied? How can induced inflammation not upset the body?"

IUD stands for intra-uterine device. These are plastic devices inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy and some of them contain copper. They prevent pregnancy primarily by creating a low level of inflammation inside the uterus which prevents sperm and egg from working properly so fertilization doesn’t occur.

So the question is, does that inflammation cause any trouble? The answer seems to be no. We’ve used IUD’s in the United States for over 50 years now with a good safety record. There was one device removed from the market in the early 1970’s due to an increased risk of serious infections, but the devices we use today don’t seem to have that risk. And we don’t see any evidence of long-term effects either, in terms of things like risk of female cancers. So IUD’s remain a safe, highly effective option for many women to reversibly prevent pregnancy.