Doc Wright, Australia's #1 Media Medic. Medical advice for all the family.

Hear Dr Wright daily on Sydney's No 1 Radio Station


Download a list of other radio stations around Australia here.

newer   older
  article topic 

Wed, 18th March 2015

Once about nine kids in ten developed chicken pox. As most young mums know, this is a highly contagious infection readily transmitted by personal contact. It causes skin blisters starting on the trunk and spreading to head and limbs. There may be a mild fever and fairly quick recovery.

However, occasionally the virus spreads to the brain or other areas. With the ready availability of chicken pox vaccine given in infancy, this has now almost universally stopped the disease. Young parents, please make certain this is included in infant immunisation programmes. However, the virus is also a long term player.

Silently Spread

It can silently spread to nerves just under the skin. In later life, anywhere from 45 to 80 years later, this may suddenly erupt. It comes in the form of tiny lines of skin blisters. But worse, the underlying pain may be ferocious. It has often been likened to red-hot coals on the skin. Worse, the pain may persist, often from weeks to months or in some cases even years, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Apart from infant vaccination, one may soon become available for adults, reducing risks of shingles. But if the tell tale blisters and pain do occur, simple measures may help. Some say applying cold packs or chipped ice can relieve pain. Others say Betadine dabbed onto the skin areas may kill the virus.

Various Treatments

Zostrex, which is manufactured from the active ingredient of capsicum, relieves others by dampening down the skin pain receptors. The newer anti-virals may be taken orally. To be effective, it is essential they be started within 72 hours of the first sign of blisters. Many say this brings fairly prompt relief, reduces blister duration and lessens long term pain. Paracetamol for pain relief helps many, but is often inadequate. 2 x 500 mg tablets may be taken one to four times a day, not more often. Those containing codeine are stronger. Even more potent medications are specifically targeted to herpes pain. As it is caused by the herpes virus family, it is commonly called herpes zoster, or more simply "shingles". It has been around for centuries. Today the outlook is good.



I went to a party the other night, ate heaps of cake and cream and fried finger food, which I normally do not eat and four hour later tossed and turned and wished I could vomit.


The body does not normally like too much fat. If you are on a low fat intake, and suddenly tempt fate, there is a penalty. Go quietly on food for a day or two, increase water intake, go for walks, and try stewed fruit instead, probably with a crushed weet bix for brekky and the evening meal. That will soon improve your feelings. If pains develop under the right lower rib margin, a gall bladder check is worthwhile - maybe an ultrasound. This is over activated with a high fat intake and must work overtime.

^back to top


What's best in cold weather - blankets, doona or electric blanket or all three?


Woollen blankets are fine, but heavy, unless you opt for mohair which is very light, but may irritate the face and neck. Electric blankets are best used before bed, and turned down low, for the bed may become very hot. They are a no no during sleep for infants, as they rapidly overheat their little bodies. Doonas fluffed up tuck around the body. They may generate enormous heat which recycles through the body as well. They are great, sometimes "too good". The options are enormous - and all wonderful.

^back to top


What is your view on having a hot shower or sauna, then jumping into a cold pool in cold weather?


This is not my scene, but great if you like masochism. In older persons and anyone with risk of angina, the sudden cold may constrict the arteries to the heart, and sudden death has occurred. The Swiss are claimed to be into this kind of torture and believe it promotes health. Make sure the icy cold swim is a short one, rub skin vigorously with a coarse towel and dress warmly. Then a hot cup of coffee!

^back to top


I am now in my mid fifties and have always been prone to negative thoughts and depression towards evening but managed to overcome it through sheer self will and trying to be outgoing. With some recent personal challenges it has crept on again and now I find it hard to throw it off. I am starting to develop sinister feelings.


You are not alone and nothing is new. The worlds most famous novelist Charles Dickens had exactly the same problem throughout his life. Many are born with a gene which may predispose, commonly following similar issues with in a parent or grandparent. Please see your doctor. Early intervention and modern medication can often bring relief and prevent a tragedy, but may take a month or more. Trying to be happy, extroverted, going for walks, visiting the gym, socialising as much as possible, listening to music and having the mind filled with "something positive" are known to help. Depression is a very debilitating symptom.

^back to top


My partner believes that daily sex is essential to normal living. I disagree which means rifts are starting. What is normal?


In the sex stakes, nothing is "normal" or "abnormal". It is an issue between two persons and agreement is essential, otherwise disaster will certainly overtake. The essentials for successful sex are ambience, feeling rested before (often exhausted after), taking time and "playing the game". Satisfaction for both is desirable, although not always possible. Foreplay, often a forgotten and neglected issue as time marches on, is also vital to ongoing success. Stress, lack of sleep, many medications, smoking, alcohol all play a negative role.

^back to top

This health advice is general in nature. You are advised to seek medical attention from your doctor or health care provider for your own specific symptoms and circumstances.



Just Ask Dr James Wright.

Coughs, colds, aches and pains, feeling off colour, painful joints, sweaty and miserable? Whatever your symptom, or illness, Dr James Wright may help you, and answer your questions.

Simply log onto type in your symptom in the space on the left hand column, click topic and up it comes. Simple easy-to-follow information Dr Wright has written over the past several years. Then click contact us if you have a special message.


You can subscribe (no cost) to Dr James Wright's Monthly Health Bulletin by emailing your name and email address to The bulletin contains up-to-date health tips and news for wellbeing. A copy of the current Bulletin may be viewed online here.

Dr James Wright is associated with lovely Vimiera Retirement Village ( in the leafy Sydney (NSW) suburb of Eastwood. It is operated by Mediaid Centre Foundation (, a non-profit Public Benevolent Institution which provides housing for the elderly, as well as providing a large amount of health information.

Waiting to hear from you Dr James Wright.