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I’m worried about my 16-year-old son having sex – how can I talk to him without embarrassment?

DO you feel fatigued all the time?

Sometimes the things we do to boost our energy could actually be making us more tired.

Dr Zoe Williams helps a reader who wants to know how to approach the subject of sex with her son
Olivia West

An energy drink might pick you up for a short while but because they are laden with sugar and stimulants, you’ll likely crash not long afterwards.

The same goes for foods high in simple carbs and sugar such as sweets, pastries and white bread.

If you’re feeling sleepy but can’t take a nap, drink a large glass of water, go for a walk outside and eat something that contains protein and fibre, which will be digested more steadily for prolonged energy.

If you’ve been tired all the time for a few weeks for no obvious reason, please speak to your GP.

Conditions that cause a decrease in energy include mental health illness, pregnancy, menopause, sleep apnoea, an iron deficiency, diabetes, a thyroid issue or, in rare cases, cancer.

So consider if there are any other changes to your usual self.

Here is a selection of what readers have asked me this week . . . 


Q: I AM worried about my son becoming sexually active. He is 16. What can I do?

A: This is a really good question and I am sure there are many parents of teenagers out there that feel the same way.

Firstly, it is important to have conversations about this, and if your gut feeling is that now is the right time, it likely is.

As parents, we must try to not let our own embarrassment get in the way.

It’s OK to be a bit embarrassed about certain topics and it’s alright to let your child know that you feel that way.

But it is also important to get over that and have the conversation anyway.

You know your child best and how best to approach it, but here are some tips from me.

Give a warning shot. Let your child know that you intend to bring the topic up, maybe by telling them you will do – so the “next time we are in the car, just the two of us”, for example.

As for the actual chat – it’s usually better to choose a less intense environment.

So rather than sitting across the dining table, discuss it when in the car, on a walk or even kicking a football together. This way there’s less eye contact, and more time for thinking.

Next, do not try to get everything you want to say out at once.

Little and often is the way to normalise conversations, and revisiting things reaffirms your position. It also gives your son the chance to be open and vocal if he wants to be.

It is important to be honest and direct – but also remember to carefully listen, be patient and give them time to think before speaking and allow them to finish each thought before interrupting.

Ideally they should be doing more talking than you.

Respect your child’s views and wishes – by doing this, you can create trust.

What you want is for your child to feel that they can discuss everything openly with you and come to you for advice and support when needed.

Q: FOR about a month, I have been suffering quite badly with pain in my left heel.

I work in catering so I am always on my feet, five days a week.


Dr Zoe also helps a reader who has been suffering quite badly with pain in their heel[/caption]

Despite having tried most things – ice bottle roll, stretching, creams – I am still in pain.

Should I see a doctor or is there something else to try?

A: Yes it’s definitely time to see a doctor or alternatively a physiotherapist.

Some practices can offer patients a physio appointment without seeing a GP first so it’s worth checking, whether by phoning your surgery or by filling out a form on its website.

There are many causes of heel pain and it sounds as though you have taken a very sensible approach towards treating the condition yourself first.

But as it’s not getting better it is important to get a professional opinion and some guidance.

Plantar fasciitis is a common cause and it tends to affect the bottom of the heel.

Inflammation of the Achilles tendon is also quite common, but this causes pain at the back of the heel.

A heel spur, which is an overgrowth of part of the bone, can cause pain in some people too. If there are pains elsewhere in the body or other symptoms then it’s also important to consider arthritis or systemic causes.

Sometimes a period of relative rest is required to help it settle down which can be tricky if your job involves being on your feet.

Could you have a short period of time away from work to see if the pain eases?

If required, your GP can support you with this.

Carefully consider your footwear – opting for cushioned soles or adding insoles or heel pads to your shoes can take off some of the pressure.

Avoid flip-flops or shoes without support and high heels.

Ibuprofen gel, stretches and ice packs are all useful treatments, so it is worth continuing with these, and your pharmacist may be able to help advise on things like insoles and pain-relief tablets while you wait to see a GP or physio.

What’s causing his hot flushes?

Q: MY partner is 79 and has had two strokes, lost both legs due to diabetes and keeps getting hot flushes but does not sweat.

He says it is a burning feeling under his skin. His face goes very hot and red, his temperature is normal, as is his blood pressure.


Doctors cannot find the cause of one reader’s hot flushes[/caption]

He has had loads of tests by his doctor and the hospital but no one can find the cause.

He has been told there is nothing else they can do. Basically, they have washed their hands of him.

A: I’m so sorry to hear your partner has had such significant and debilitating health issues.

Clearly his diabetes has been sufficiently severe and long standing to cause serious complications, and I do wonder if the diabetes has damaged some of the small nerves of the facial skin.

Nerves help us control our temperature by stimulating the skin to flush (or sweat), and if they get damaged, then the person may be more or less likely to have facial flushing.

The response may no longer only happen appropriately at times when we need to cool down.

If high sugar in the blood over time has damaged these nerves permanently then finding effective treatment may be challenging, but sometimes understanding why it’s happening can be helpful.

It may be something to explore further with your partner’s diabetes specialist team.

I also want to mention a phenomenon called gustatory flushing, which is when people flush (and sometimes sweat) in response to eating.

This will be familiar to many of us if we’ve had spicy food but in some people it can happen whatever they’ve eaten.

You didn’t mention a link to eating, but I thought I’d refer to it just in case.

Tip of the week

IF you struggle to drink enough water, buy a bottle with a straw so you can sip it without thinking.

Use an app such as Water Reminder, place a glass by the bathroom sink to drink from every time you wash your hands, and eat foods high in water, such as cucumber, melon and pineapple.

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