Dr Bernadette Carr answers your questions on diabetes and ear infections

Does a ‘sweet-tooth’ lead to diabetes and does a cold lead to an ear infection? Dr Bernadette Carr answers your questions.

Q. My 10-year-old seems to spend a lot of her pocket money on sweets and chocolate bars.

Recently, I heard someone say that her ‘sweet-tooth’ will lead to diabetes? Is this true?

A. Sweets, chocolate and other sugary foods and drinks, particularly sweet fizzy drinks, contain huge amounts of sugar. 

‘Calorie-dense’ foods and drinks like these have no nutritional value, and provide far more energy than most children need.

This excess energy is stored as fat leading to weight gain. 

Being overweight is one of the biggest risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes, and has many other consequences for children, affecting their self-esteem and wellbeing, while food and drink high in sugar can lead to tooth decay.

It is important to encourage your daughter to develop healthy eating habits which will stay with her for the rest of her life.

Sweets and chocolates are high in calories and should be seen as occasional treats, not something for every day. She needs to understand that the food choices she makes matter.

You could begin by talking to her about how she spends her pocket money. 

Is there something she could collect or save up for that would give her more lasting enjoyment? 

Buying sweets may have become a habit, or a way of being part of her peer group. Does she have a hobby or interest that she could spend some money on?

Developing healthy eating habits takes time, and it is very important that she sees a positive example from her family. Some suggestions are:

Lead by example. What you do speaks louder than what you say!

Don’t buy sweets, biscuits or fizzy drinks with the weekly shop. Buy them for specific treats. That way they are seen as special, rather than a normal part of eating.

Q. I had a cold last week and now the inner part of my ears are sore. Could I have an infection?

A. There are a number of reasons why our ears can get sore after an upper respiratory infection. 

Most colds are caused by common viruses and result in one or more of the symptoms of sore throats, dry cough, runny nose, blocked sinuses, and feeling generally unwell. 

They typically last three to five days, but can take up to 10 to 14 days to clear up fully. 

During these infections, the lining of the nose, throat, sinuses and upper airways gets irritated and swollen and produces lots of mucus, which is the reason for the common complaint of feeling ‘stuffed up’.

We have a tube which leads from our middle ear (the small chamber behind the eardrum) to our throat and which makes sure that the normal mucus can drain out and air can move in and out to prevent a build-up of pressure. 

After a cold it is common for the Eustachian tube to stay blocked for a few days. 

This can cause a build-up of pressure in the middle ear, which presses on the sensitive eardrum, and is probably the commonest reason for earache after a cold.

The pain usually comes and goes as the pressure changes and after a few days clears up for good.

Occasionally there is a build-up of mucus in the middle ear. 

This can also put pressure on the eardrum causing pain, and usually also affects hearing. 

It normally clears up after a week or two, though in children it can last longer, as their Eustachian tubes are much narrower and can stay blocked for longer. 

When it does not go away after a week or two it is known as ‘glue ear’.

If the middle ear has filled with mucus it this also become infected by bacteria. 

This can happen at any age, but it is much more common in children and is unusual in adults. 

Mostly these infections clear up themselves with no treatment other than painkillers, thoughdoctors often treat them with antibiotics to speed up the healing.

There a number of possible reasons for having sore ears after a cold, and certainly in adults, middle ear infection is not the most common problem. 

Problems in the sensitive skin of the outer ear can also cause earache, while pain nearly anywhere in the head or neck can be felt as earache because of the way the nerves in this part of the body travel.


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