Chemicals that normally would not bother you can give off fumes when they get hot. You may suddenly notice fumes from asphalt surfaces, from car tyres, or from car interiors on hot days. Open up cars and air them before driving off in hot weather. You may be able to tolerate synthetic materials unless you wear them or sleep on them -thereby making them warm enough to give off fumes. You may be able to use plastic bags, boxes, or plastic wrap, unless you use them on warm food. Decorating and furnishing materials, such as paints and plastics, may not bother you unless they get heated, so take care with paint on radiators, around windows and doors, and with lagging and insulating materials, and with fabric or plastic lampshades that get heated. Televisions, computers and audio equipment can give off fumes when hot, so you may have to moderate their use and ventilate well when they are on.

Avoid using a foam padded ironing board cover, or one with a metallic cover.

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Veneers and Sheets

Veneers are thin layers of wood glued to a thicker surface, often particle board. The particle board is often the cause of reactions to veneers rather than the veneer itself.

Melamine and plastic sheets used as a covering on particle boards can give off fumes when new, but usually air off well. Again, the particle board is the more likely source of problems.

Wallpaper

Wallpaper, including lining paper, is best avoided if you are highly sensitive to moulds as moulds grow on it. Again, it is best avoided.

For wall finishes, use plaster with simple emulsion paint, or tile walls where appropriate.

For stripping wallpaper, use a steam stripper rather than solvent strippers.

Wiring

Some people who are extremely sensitive to plastics can react to plastic-covered electric wiring if it heats up. If this affects you, contain wiring behind skirtings if possible. Alternatively, you can contain wires in steel conduit, or use mineral-insulated copper cable (MICC). The latter option is usually cheaper.

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If you suspect your baby is ill in any way, you should always go to see a doctor to obtain a proper diagnosis. You should always make sure that all other possible causes, as well as allergy and sensitivity, are considered. Never jump to conclusions yourself.

What Symptoms Might I See?

If your baby has been sensitive or allergic from birth, it may be very difficult to work out what are symptoms, and what are just features of the baby itself. Some allergic or sensitive babies are constantly snuffly, or restless; some cry constantly, are grizzly, irritable and have difficulty in sleeping. Some have colic, excessive wind and constipation. Some have rough skin, itchy eyes and dermatitis. Some have flushed, red faces and shiny skin. With a newborn, it can sometimes be impossible to tell whether he or she is reacting or not. Unless you feel strongly that something is wrong, or the baby has clear reactions to changes in routine, it may be unwise to draw any conclusions.

You might also investigate whether he or she is sensitive to cleaning, sterilising and laundry agents, toiletries, or other chemicals you are using; or to inhalants such as house dust mites, moulds or pets.

Many babies develop the first clear signs of allergy and sensitivity at between two and six months. It is not possible to say whether this is due to some particular vulnerability or immaturity of the body’s immune, digestive and other systems, or whether this simply coincides with many babies’ first exposures to foods other than milk, or to other allergens, or chemicals causing sensitivity.

Eczema is particularly common at this stage of a baby’s life often flaring up for a while and then disappearing, either totally or to reappear later in life. Asthma can occur in very young children; some doctors argue that babies under one year cannot develop asthma because they are incapable of wheezing. Non-wheezing asthma can be observed, however – a hoarse, dry cough unrelated to a head cold or virus, which can become productive of phlegm. Gut symptoms of allergy and intolerance are also common. As babies grow older, it is often easier to detect their symptoms as they develop more of their own character and temperament, and a particular routine and diet. It becomes simpler to spot changes and triggers, whether it is a change of diet, a new food, a new pet, a new childminder, a change of season, new bedding, moving house, vaccinations, or a viral or gastric infection.

Symptoms due to other types of sensitivity (e.g. chemicals, inhalants) include breathing and nasal symptoms, eczema, urticaria and asthma. Digestive symptoms are most likely to be caused by food sensitivity. Many parents whose babies go on to develop more serious symptoms as children or adults often recall that their child was unhappy and restless as a young baby, with mild symptoms. It is often difficult to distinguish low level symptoms from an occasional head cold or virus, or from the general crankiness that babies or toddlers often exhibit when they are tired, hungry, bored, or thwarted in their desires.

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Certain environments do not favour house dust mites. They are killed by sunlight. The majority of mites live in the top 1-2 cm (% inch) of any surface, and sunlight can penetrate far enough to kill by light or drying many of the mites present, although it does not remove their faeces or debris. Washing at high temperatures (90oC/194°F plus) also kills mites, and, if thorough, can remove them and their faecal debris completely. A dry environment kills them. They do not survive at a relative humidity level below 55 per cent, and if you can create localised dry conditions, say by drying a pillow on a radiator or hot water tank, or by drying a bed with hot water bottles, or with an electric blanket, this will kill them, although again faeces and debris are not removed. House dust mites do not occur in any concentration in the Alps; the combination of low humidity and low temperatures is probably the reason for this.

Synthetic materials are often claimed to deter house dust mites and advice is often given to use synthetic bedding, to avoid problems with house dust mite allergy. Despite the prevalence of this advice, there is little evidence to substantiate it, and the experience of many people with allergies indicates the need for caution.

Problems with mites can, and do, recur in synthetic bedding after a while, unless you take preventative measures to deter them (so the benefits can be due simply to the newness of the bedding, not to the change to synthetic material).

There is some evidence that synthetic carpets can reduce the level of airborne allergens (including house dust mites) because their increased level of static electricity attracts particles and holds them down. There are also some benefits to using synthetic bedding, compared to wool or feathers, in that it can be readily washed and dried. However, washing at low temperatures (40°C/105°F or less) does not kill mites. It simply rinses out the faecal pellets, but not always the mites themselves, who are tenacious and cling on to survive. You need a high temperature of wash to kill and eliminate mites.

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The body requires enzymes for many of its chemical reactions. For digestion, many different enzymes are needed to help break down and metabolise foods. Some people are deficient in specific enzymes and simply cannot digest certain foods properly. A number of these defects are well known and have specific symptoms. One of the most common is a deficiency of lactase, an enzyme that breaks down lactose, the sugar found in milk and milk products. The symptoms that result are diarrhoea, wind and a distended abdomen, and this can be a very serious condition in babies. Lactase deficiency can be inherited, or it can develop later in life. Lactase levels are reduced by a stomach upset or gastro-enteritis, and lactose intolerance can follow such an illness for a temporary period. Levels of lactase decrease with age, as well, so adults can also develop the condition.

It is known that up to 40 per cent of Japanese people are deficient in this enzyme, and they can suffer from flushing and other symptoms.

There are other documented enzyme defects besides these, and a specialist doctor may be able to identify them if you have a clear pattern of symptoms.

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Two very new designs of implants, the Flexi-Flate and the Hydroflex, represent something of a cross between the inflatable and the semirigid types. Like the semirigid implant, these consist of two cylinders placed in the corpora cavernosa. But like the inflatable type, these cylinders actually inflate and the penis can be flaccid or rigid. To inflate the implant, a man pushes on the part of the prosthesis near the head of the penis. This transfers all the fluid from one chamber into another, causing an erection. The beauty of this design is that the reservoir is actually contained inside the cylinders themselves.

For a man who runs a greater-than-average risk from general anesthesia but who prefers the inflatable implant, these newer models present a viable compromise, because often a local anesthetic is all that’s required.

The drawbacks to this crossbreed are that the penis never reaches a completely relaxed state, and it doesn’t increase in girth as much as the more traditional type of inflatable implant. That’s s because the reservoir has to be smaller since it is located inside the corpora cavernosa. And it may be two to three months after surgery before you can operate the implant fully.

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After taking your history, the doctor will probably give you a complete physical examination. This is an essential part of the medical detective work involved in diagnosing and treating erection problems. Your doctor is looking for signs of unsuspected diseases which could cause or contribute to your difficulty.

The physician should pay special attention to your pulses and arteries to check for signs of arterial disease which could make blood flow to the penis difficult or impossible. He’ll feel the arteries in your groin, behind your knee and in your feet. This may seem strange, but a sign of blockage in these arteries can be a tip-off that you have similar problems in the arteries to the penis. While your doctor may also try to feel arteries in the penis, they are very small and often escape detection. So, the state of your other arteries may be the best clue to the state of your blood-flow system.

Testing the “knee jerk” reflex in your legs and ankles is one indicator of the health of your nervous system. And the doctor may pinch your penis near the tip. He’s looking to see if your anal sphincter contracts, and checking the same response in the bulbocavernosus muscle, the one that encircles the urethra and propels semen. When these reflexes are present, it indicates that the nerves from the penis to the spinal cord and back to the penis are healthy. The absence of this reflex does not necessarily indicate a problem, but it may steer the doctor to further tests.

The doctor may test for a similar reflex by pricking (lightly!) the anal sphincter with a pin. The sphincter should contract. If it doesn’t, you may have nerve damage. The same type of pinpricks can be used to test sensations around the penis and the rectum. Brushing with a soft cotton ball also works—and feels better. The doctor may also test your ability to feel vibrations by putting a tuning fork or a special instrument on your penis. The whole point is to see if nerves in these crucial areas are functioning properly.

And, of course, a close inspection of the penis is in order. The doctor should feel your penis carefully. He’s checking for hard, lumpy scars that can be a symptom of Peyronie’s disease, which can cause impotence.

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Sometimes, the desire for a “quick fix” to an erection problem backfires because the woman’s needs, and the whole structure of the relationship, are ignored. It’s important that both partners agree on the therapy.

Martin’s experience illustrates just how crucial the involvement of the partner can be. This quiet man had been married for some 30 years and was nearing the age of retirement. He’d suffered from erection problems for the last 10 years, but didn’t think anything could change that. While in the hospital for a minor surgical procedure, however, Martin began talking with the nurses and doctors, and found out about penile implants. Martin decided this was the solution he was looking for.

A few weeks later, Martin showed up at the clinic. He was very direct about the problem and the solution. Tests showed that blood-flow problems were the culprit in his inability to get an erection, and a penile implant was suggested as a solution. First, however, the doctor wanted to explain the procedure to Martin’s wife. “My wife thinks the implant is the greatest thing since sliced bread,” Martin declared, and explained that she had been called out of town on pressing business. He assured the doctor, however, that he had explained the entire procedure to her, that she had no questions and that she was totally in favor of the operation.

The urologist, taking Martin at his word, performed the surgery without talking to or meeting Martin’s wife. Everything went without a hitch, and, after several days in the hospital, a happy Martin was sent home to recover, with instructions not to use the implant until the doctor said it was all right (usually, several weeks after surgery).

Martin had done extremely well in the hospital, with few complaints of pain. But after he returned home, he was very uncomfortable. Several office visits failed to establish any cause for the unusual amount of pain, and in fact Martin was healing very well. No one could find anything wrong with him, but he was clearly unhappy.

Finally, just three weeks after the surgery, Martin returned once again to the clinic, this time demanding that the implant be removed. “Take it out or I’ll cut it out myself,” he yelled.

He was adamant that the “thing” be removed, and would not answer any questions about his wife’s feelings about his operation.

Faced with this situation, the clinic doctors decided they had no choice but to schedule surgery to remove the implant. But the staff was troubled by Martin’s dramatic change in attitude. Finally, a staff member, attempting to reach Martin at home, found himself talking with Martin’s heretofore elusive, always out-of-town-on-business wife. She was extremely angry. “How dare you put this thing in my husband? It was those young nurses in the hospital who convinced him to have this done! I won’t let him back in the house until you remove it,” she said.

Martin’s wife said further that she had told him from the very beginning that she did not want him to have the surgery. She was through with sex, and she wanted things to remain as they had been.

As it turned out, Martin had never consulted his wife about having his potency problem treated. Like many couples, Martin and his wife had lived with the erection problem for ten years, and in many respects had adjusted to that situation. To change it suddenly without the clear and informed involvement of both partners was a disaster.

The surgeon, resolving to never again put an implant in a married man without first interviewing the wife, removed the prosthesis from Martin. He recovered without difficulty, and returned home.

Cases like this just reinforce the fact that the woman should be involved in treatment to boost potency.

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Severe kidney disease can destroy a man’s potency as it destroys his health. There are lots of reasons for this, Kidney disease can lower testosterone production and raise the level of another hormone, prolactin, which can cause erection problems. And patients with kidney disease may suffer damage to nerves that are essential for erection. And even dialysis, the mechanical blood-cleaning process that can save patients with kidney disease, can cause impotence. Some doctors have found that dialysis may remove zinc from the body, and too little zinc can cause erection problems. Giving patients extra zinc to make up for this loss may help with potency. But the results are not clear; different researchers have come up with different results, some finding that zinc supplementation doesn’t help.

Extra zinc is not a cure for impotence.)

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Ifs important to examine your testicles regularly for cancer, even though testicular cancer is relatively rare. Men 18 to 32 years old and over 60 run a higher than average risk of getting testicular cancer. But anyone can be vulnerable.

If left untreated, this cancer can lead to death. Fortunately, removal of the diseased testicle often halts the cancer. Removal of one testicle will not affect potency. If both testicles are removed (a very rare occurrence), potency problems can result. While potency can be restored with testosterone shots, ifs best to catch the cancer early. That’ s why self-examination is so important. Here’s how to do it.

(It’s important in doing this exam that you know the location of your epididymis, since you could mistake it for trouble. The epididymis is normally a soft, sausage-shaped organ, running up and down the back of the testicle. It feels like a bump when you touch it. There’s a slight groove between the testicle and the epididymis.) Lightly massage the whole surface of each testicle, using both hands. You should not feel any hard lumps. If you do feel one, see your family physician or a urologist immediately. If found early, testicular cancer is virtually 100 percent curable.

Play it safe and give yourself an exam once a month. It only takes a couple of minutes, but it can save your life.

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