Ashton Answering Your Questions

In "The Early Show"'s "Ask It Early" series, CBS News medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton answered health questions from viewers.

Paul Erdek, of Sarasota, Fla., asked via Webcam, "When I was a kid I remember my mom giving us a gargle with iodine. And it seemed to be very effective in curing the sore throat and the swollen glands, and a simple and inexpensive remedy. How come we're not using things like that now?"

Ashton said it's true that many remedies have fallen by the wayside.

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"(Iodine gargling), however, is still, believe it or not, pretty popular in places like Japan," Ashton said. "Some people in this country still do it."

Ashton said iodine and water does kill bacteria. She said many oral surgeons will use a diluted iodine wash after some mouth surgeries.

However, like anything in medicine, Ashton said, too much of it can actually be dangerous, especially if you swallow it. She added too much iodine can affect the function of the thyroid gland.

"In moderation," Ashton told Erdek, "feel free to continue, but probably not every day."

Kary Brigger, of Springboro, Ohio, on Twitter asked Ashton, "Has there been enough testing for people with asthma and the medications they take to administer the proper dose of the H1N1 vaccine?"

Special Report: H1N1 Virus

Ashton said tests are ongoing for interactions between the H1N1 vaccine and asthma. She said researchers are looking at what dose of the vaccine is effective and safety data.

She added that people who take several medications for their asthma should be aggressive about monitoring their symptoms, so that they do not develop into pneumonia if they get infected with H1N1.

Asthma medications can interact with each other, Ashton said, but not usually with the vaccine.

Cristine Stineman, of Des Moines, Iowa, asked about the explosion of high-speed Internet access, and its effects on communication between physicians and health care providers and rural and underserved areas.

Ashton said so-called "telemedicine" is an "exploding field."

"It really is allowing doctors to be connected with other doctors in various parts of the world, but also with patients," she said. "This is a great way for people to share resources and information, especially for those who are in...underserved areas or remote locations."

Telemedicine, Ashton said, is often helping with the interpretation of computed tomography (CT or CAT Scans) and X-rays.

"Sometimes when we do them here in the middle of the night," Ashton said, referring to New York, "the images are actually fed to Australia and India where, because of the time difference, those doctors are sitting there waiting to receive the images, and they're actually reviewing the reports."

She added that she expects to see more of this technology in the future. However, she said nothing can replace the hands-on physical exam that health care professionals can provide.

"Early Show" news anchor Russ Mitchell remarked that this sounds like "the new house call."

"It's going to be part of it," Ashton said.

As for the Internet as a whole, Price said people are trying to often diagnose themselves with information found there. Is that helpful or not?

Ashton said the information is largely helpful. However, she reiterated the point that the actual hands-on physical exams by healthcare professionals are important because doctors and nurses know how conditions look, feel, and even smell.

"(The Internet information) is an adjunct," she said. "It's not going to replace (exams)."
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