August 2, 2014 at 1:00 am

To Your Health

Two heads better than one for a doctor's visit

Dear Dr. Roach: I always try to accompany my husband when he goes to the doctor. I feel that two sets of ears are always better than one. When his vitals are taken (e.g., weight, blood pressure), I have to ask what they were, as they never seem to volunteer this information.

I mention this because the last time we were at the doctors office, I asked what his weight was, because he had just lost 10 pounds. The nurse said it was 165, and I said really, that was odd, as his shorts were very loose on him. We took it again, and she had transposed the numbers. It was 156.

This is a wake-up call to all patients: They need to be aware to ask these questions for their health and well-being.

C.W.

Dear C.W.: I agree with you completely, for several reasons. Doctors and nurses make mistakes, but we also dont communicate as effectively as we should some of the time. We use words that people dont understand, talk too fast or too quietly, and dont spend the time we need to making sure people know what they should do to help themselves get better.

I think having a family member there is a great idea. So is taking notes, and so is going over what YOU understood the doctor to say, to make sure you are both on the same page.

Dear Dr. Roach: Could you please address the risks involved in oral sex?

Im referring to the possible spreading of oral diseases, such as herpes, to the genitals and the possible spreading of genital diseases, such as HPV, to the mouth.

J.F.

Dear J.F.: The risk of acquiring an STD with oral sex is low, but not zero. Gonorrhea and even HIV have been transmitted with oral sex, although the risk is quite small. Herpes simplex and HPV are the most likely infections.

Most cases of oral herpes (commonly called cold sores or fever blisters) are type I; most cases of genital herpes are type II. However, someone who has never had HSV-I (including about 70 percent of adolescents ages 14-19 in the U.S.) can get genital HSV-1 from receiving oral sex from a partner.

HPV (human papilloma virus, the cause of most warts) can be transmitted sexually as well. Most people fight off this infection.

However, some people dont, and they are at risk for developing cancer of the mouth and throat.

Transmission of the virus can be minimized by choosing partners wisely, by barrier methods such as male or female condoms and dental dams, and, in the case of HPV, by getting the vaccine, which I strongly recommend for all males and females ages 13 to 26.

Email questions to ToYourGoodHealth@med.cornell.edu.