Seek medical care when tick bite is followed by rash

Doctor typing on computer

Hello, dear readers, and welcome back to our monthly letters column. With the warm spring-almost-summer weather, we are officially in tick season. We urge you to be on high alert for these potentially dangerous pests as you spend time outdoors. Dress defensively, use the appropriate bug repellents and don’t skip the tick checks, including for any four-footed friends. If a tick bite is followed by a rash, fever or flulike symptoms, always seek medical care. And now, onward to the inbox.

  • In a column that explored some potential health hazards of raw milk, we suggested a switch to plant-based alternatives. This prompted a question from a reader. “In today's column, you recommended switching to plant-based products instead of cow's milk,” she wrote. “What is the reason? Is the calcium absorbed as well from those products?” Plant-based milks tend to have a more healthful fat profile than cow’s milk. Almond, oat and cashew milk are lower in saturated fat. So is soy milk, which matches cow’s milk in protein value. The calcium in these milks is not as readily absorbed as cow’s milk. But if calcium is your goal, fortified orange juice may be an option. Some plant-based milk products have added sugars, so be sure to read the labels to avoid those. And last but not least, the production of plant-based milks is kinder to the environment.
  • A reader whose friends are losing weight with a dietary supplement that claims to burn fat wonders if it is safe and effective. “When I look at the ingredients, there are some that I can't even pronounce,” she wrote. “Are they safe?” Numerous so-called fat-burner supplements claim to curb appetite, increase the resting metabolic rate, block fat or carbohydrate absorption and, thus, lead to weight loss. Some of the ingredients can elevate heart rate and blood pressure, which affects the metabolism. Others can bind to macronutrients, such as fat or carbohydrates, and slow or prevent their absorption. Many contain soluble fiber, which helps you feel full. While these products can be a factor in weight loss, there is no evidence that it is sustainable. More important, these types of supplements are not regulated by the FDA. The ingredients can interact with medications, which means they are not safe for everyone. If you are considering using a weight-loss supplement, check on the ingredients with your doctor or pharmacist.
  • We continue to hear from readers who want to learn more about studies of the use of stem cells to manage Type 1 diabetes. Many have indicated that they would like to take part in these studies. This is a robust area of research, with numerous clinical trials taking place. To learn about upcoming and ongoing studies, visit Using the search form on the front page, select Type 1 diabetes and enter “stem cells” into the box labeled “treatment.”

Thank you, as always, for your letters. We love to hear from you. Please remember that we cannot comment on specific medications or treatment plans, cannot review your medical information, nor can we offer second opinions.

(Send your questions to [email protected], or write: Ask the Doctors, c/o UCLA Health Sciences Media Relations, 10960 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1955, Los Angeles, CA, 90024. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.)

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