I’m seeing my doctor for frequent headaches. What is likely to happen at the appointment?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I've made an appointment to see a doctor because of my frequent headaches. What is likely to happen at the appointment?

DEAR READER: If your headaches are severe, occur often, or are unresponsive to nonprescription pain relievers, it makes sense to see your doctor. He or she will try to determine the causes of your headaches and design a treatment plan. Your appointment is likely to begin with a series of questions about your headaches.

What is a patient-centered medical home?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I've been going to a family medicine practice for years. My doctor just told me the practice is going to become a "patient-centered medical home." What does that mean? How is this going to affect my health care?

DEAR READER: Many family medicine practices across the country are switching to a team-based model of care called a patient-centered medical home (PCMH). The PCMH turns a doctor's practice into a physician-led team. This team will develop a long-term treatment plan for you that focuses on prevention. Basically, the PCMH was born out of the realization that 21st-century medical care has become more complicated.

Should I read with my toddler every day?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My pediatrician has urged me to read with my toddler every day. Why? And where do I begin?

DEAR READER: Reading with children at a young age helps them develop their reading skills and language. A child who reads with his or her parents will learn to enjoy books, learn to read faster and want to read more. But reading to a baby is more than that. It's also a bonding experience. Even though the baby can't really understand, he or she will begin to connect spoken words to the words printed on a page. The baby will enjoy the sound of your voice and start to develop listening skills. And the book will have pictures that awaken the baby's curiosity.

How can I reduce the risk of side effects of new medications?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I need to start taking a new medication to treat a recently diagnosed condition. Is there anything I can do to reduce the risk of side effects?

DEAR READER: My colleague Dr. Gordon Schiff, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, says it well: "All drugs have effects -- the ones we want and the ones we don't. The unwanted effects are known as side effects." When you take a drug, it is distributed throughout your body, to all your organs and tissues. The drug may do different things in those different organs.

How can we protect our eyes from the sun?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Does spending time in the sun pose a threat to our eyes? What can we do to protect ourselves?

DEAR READER: Yes, it does. And to a large extent, the damage may already be done. I spoke to Dr. Louis Pasquale, an ophthalmologist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. He noted that spending a lot of time in the sun without sunglasses when you're young may put you at risk for developing eye problems when you're older. The damage would probably be done in your 20s and 30s.

Can erectile dysfunction be caused by vascular disease?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My doctor says my erectile dysfunction is most likely caused by vascular disease. Can you explain the connection?

DEAR READER: Erectile dysfunction (ED) -- trouble attaining and sustaining an erection -- is quite common in men over age 40. Why, you might ask, would nature (evolution) not preserve something so important to the continued existence of the human race? The average life expectancy throughout most of human history has been less than 50 years. Guys, we were not built to last!

Can vitamin C boost your immune system and prevent colds?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Whatever happened to the idea that vitamin C can boost your immune system and prevent colds?

DEAR READER: Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, was promoted as a health supplement for decades. It is perhaps best known for its one-time reputation for preventing and treating the common cold. This idea was heavily promoted in the 1970s by one of the 20th century's most celebrated biochemists, Nobel laureate Linus Pauling. But Pauling did not win the Nobel Prize for his theories about vitamin C. Vitamin C is crucial for making collagen, the substance that lends structural support to tendons, ligaments, bones and blood vessels.

What can I do to reduce my risk of getting food poisoning?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I am recovering from a painful bout of food poisoning. What can I do to reduce my risk of getting it again?

DEAR READER: Nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Yuck! Food poisoning is not something you want to repeat if you can avoid it. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to reduce your risk. Food poisoning commonly occurs when food or water is contaminated during improper cooking, handling or storage. The most common contaminants are bacteria, such as salmonella, Campylobacter and E. coli.

How do I give my newborn a sponge bath?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm about to become a new mom. I've heard it's best to give my newborn son a sponge bath, but I've never done this before. Can you give me some guidance?

DEAR READER: Don't worry; giving the baby a sponge bath is easy, even enjoyable, with experience. Give your baby a sponge bath until the umbilical cord falls off. When the baby is born, the umbilical cord is cut. A small stump of cord remains where the baby's belly button is. That stump of cord usually falls off in the first week or two after the baby is born. Once the cord falls off, you can give your baby a tub bath.

What type memory changes will I experience as I get older?

DEAR DOCTOR K: What kind of memory changes am I likely to experience as I get older? Why do these changes happen?

DEAR READER: Many people begin to notice changes in their powers of recall around the age of 50. You may have to rack your brain to remember a name or word that is familiar to you. You may find it increasingly difficult to divide your attention among more than one activity or source of information. And you may get more easily distracted than when you were younger.