DEAR DR. ROACH: The senior center in my community is kept at a temperature that I and many other seniors find too cool for our comfort. After two hours of playing Scrabble or watching a film, we feel chilled to the bone. We have complained many times to the management, with no change. Recently, I overheard an employee explain to a complainer that the center maintains the cool temperature to keep the germ count in the air down in order to promote a healthy environment. I know very warm temperatures can promote germ growth (anyone in Bacteriology 101 has seen it proven), but would raising the temperature from 72 F to 75 F have any bad effect on the air quality? — H.L.

ANSWER: In bacteriology, most of what we did was in incubators at 37 degrees Celsius (about 99 degrees Fahrenheit), an optimal growth temperature for most pathogenic bacteria in or on a growth medium. However, I was surprised to find that hotter temperatures, in general, tend to reduce both viruses and bacteria in the air. So there’s no validity to the employee’s claim.

The people controlling the temperature (the staff) probably are more comfortable at a cooler temperature than the seniors taking advantage of the senior center (there are many reasons for this). Your suggestion of 75 F seems a perfectly reasonable temperature to me, but maybe it’s worth finding out what most of the community wants.

DEAR DR. ROACH: We are regular readers of your column. At 72, I have fasting labs done every six months (metabolic and lipid panels and yearly Vitamin D check). Some doctors say that having coffee in the morning before a blood draw is OK if you don’t use milk or sugar; other doctors say no coffee. What is the professional advice on this? — D.B.

ANSWER: Coffee or tea without milk or sugar does not interfere with the blood testing.

DEAR DR. ROACH: My doctor will not issue maintenance medication prescriptions for longer than three months. My insurance company has sent me many emails asking me to have him write them for the year, and when I mention it to him, he just refuses. I have been seeing him for five years, and everything is just fine. All blood-work numbers are excellent. He has just posted a sign in his office that no prescriptions will be refilled without an office visit, so I am not the only one subject to this policy. We like this doctor, but we think this practice is somewhat overbearing, if not unethical. I’d like my prescription to be for a year because we are retired and travel. In the past, more than once I have had to call my pharmacy and have refills sent to another address. This doctor will not respond to calls from a pharmacy for refills; only a visit will do. Is there anything that can be done other than changing doctors? — A.

ANSWER: I wouldn’t say that this practice is unethical. Physicians need to decide for themselves how comfortable they are in treating chronic conditions without seeing their patients for a prolonged period. His method ensures very regular follow-up, and he is likely to find changes to your condition more quickly than if he wrote yearly prescriptions.

On the other hand, many people don’t need such close follow-up, and it is significantly less convenient for many.

The bottom line is, no matter what his motivation for such a policy, those who find this too much of an inconvenience probably would do better with a different provider.

READERS: The booklet on vertigo explains this disruptive condition in detail and outlines its treatment. Readers can order a copy by writing: Dr. Roach — No. 801, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6 Can. with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.

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