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ASK THE DOC: Masks, allergies and COVID-19 concerns

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I have started getting a rash under my mask. Is there anything I can do to prevent that? Are there materials that are better for masks?

A variety of masks have been made since the beginning of their recommendation by the CDC. Some are made with natural materials while others are made with synthetic materials. It is difficult to identify what may be causing your rash without further details of what kind of mask you use, and would require a series of tests performed by a physician. It is cheaper to simply try different types of masks in order to identify which material causes a rash and which do not. If your rash does not resolve with changing mask materials, it is recommended that you see a doctor for medication to treat your rash.

What are the early symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome? Can I prevent it?

Typically, symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are not thought to be early or late. It is hard to identify early signs of carpal tunnel syndrome as patients typically present to their doctor with complaints of numbness, tingling or burning pain in their hands. Sometimes, the symptoms identified previously will cause a patient distress, but it is not commonly treated until symptoms become chronic in nature. It is also hard to identify inflammation of the carpal tunnel (the cause of carpal tunnel syndrome) to be the true source of the symptoms as there are other things that can cause similar problems. Prevention of carpal tunnel syndrome is possible before it is diagnosed by taking breaks from activity that can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome such as gardening, assembly line work, typing and forceful gripping of objects.

Eli Wayman

Dr. Eli Wayman

How do you avoid getting ingrown toenails? How do you treat them?

Ingrown toenails are very common. They occur when the toenail has a hook at the sides of the nail. This hook digs into the skin as the nail grows out leading to irritation, inflammation, and infection. The best way to treat ingrown toenails is to prevent them. It is important when clipping your toenails to have sharp, square corners that extend beyond the skin of the toe. This prevents the formation of a hook and keeps the nail from becoming snagged in the skin next to the nail. If a nail has become ingrown and is very tender, it is likely that it will have to be removed by a doctor.

Are allergies particularly bad this year? I can barely walk outside without sneezing or tearing up. Is there anything I can do besides taking allergy pills?

The severity of allergies is totally dependent upon how well plants grow. If the growing season was not very productive, there will be fewer allergens produced by plant life. If the growing season was good, there will be more allergens produced. Allergy pills are very good at treating allergies to a variety of substances. There are other means of treating allergies such as topical steroids that are administered in the nose. These medications treat the allergic response by your immune system at the source and are very effective when used correctly. Another less common used treatment for allergies is saline rinses. There are a variety of devices that deliver saline to the nasal cavity. These devices flush the allergens out of the nasal cavity preventing them from causing an allergic response. Some topical steroids are available over the counter and most devices also do not require a prescription. For some, wearing masks is helpful as well. Continue to treat your allergies and protect yourself until the first hard freeze. Then most of the allergens in the environment will be eliminated.

If you smell something burning is that the sign of something? Someone told me it was a sign of COVID-19. Someone else says it’s a sign of a stroke? I’ve had this sensation before, but I seem to be OK.

This is a very complex question and I will try to answer it as succinctly as possible. When we think of smell we must keep several things in mind, the biggest of which is the brain. The brain is a very complex organ. It interprets the world around us through a series of signals from our skin, eyes, ears, tongue, and nose. Sometimes illness can affect our smell. COVID-19 can cause individuals to lose their sense of smell. It is temporary and will resolve in time. Other times, more sophisticated things occur than can lead to a change in smell as the brain can misinterpret the information that it is being provided. Many things can cause this misinterpretation, which will need to be evaluated by your doctor. It is not very common for stroke to present itself as smelling something burning. It is important to talk to you doctor about any upsetting symptoms so that they can determine if you have any other symptoms that would identify the true cause of your change in smell. There are many things that it could be that can be treated with medication.

What is the right way to fall? We’re heading into the icy season and I’m worried I won’t be able to get through winter without some kind of slip. Hope you can help.

Unfortunately, there is no correct way to fall. Even if you wanted to fall a certain way, we are all subject to gravity and cannot dictate how we fall. The thing we can do is prevent falls. It is important to know your limitations. If you are at risk of falls due to muscle weakness, balance issues or lung and heart problems, it is important to have necessary assistance devices at home like a walker, wheelchair, handrails, etc. Stay inside after icy weather and plan for snowy days so that you can reduce the amount of time you have to spend outside. It is difficult for most to accept their limitations, but it is important to do so. Elderly individuals put themselves at risk of severe complications, even death, if they fall and suffer a bone fracture or head injury. Fortunately, we have started working towards effective home delivery and home health measures during the COVID-19 pandemic that should keep people at risk of falling safe by providing these individuals with essential items that can be delivered to their door. Any type of fall can lead to any injury that can have long term consequences. A visit with you doctor can be the step in the right direction to get all of equipment you may need for you to be safe in your own home.

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