Question:

What is your take on manuka honey?

Answer: Manuka is a type of honey from New Zealand made by bees that pollinate the flowers of the manuka bush.

Honey has naturally occurring antibacterial and antioxidant properties, and it's able to avoid bacterial resistance. Honey can inhibit bacterial growth and kill topically when applied directly to an infected area. Manuka honey has far greater antibacterial potency than other types of honey.

The practice of using honey to heal wounds goes back thousands of years. The renewed interest in medicinal honey has come about because of the growing problem of bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics.

The Waikato Honey Research Unit in New Zealand is actively researching manuka honey.

Honey from the grocery store is not medicinal grade and should not be used for wound care. Medihoney is the first FDA-approved honey-infused dressing approved for burns and wounds.

Santa's health concerns?

Q:

Just for fun, could you speculate on what health problems Santa Claus might have?

A: This is all pure medical conjecture. But given his advanced age, occupational hazards, and obvious obesity, he might be dealing with a number of chronic medical conditions.

At his age, he probably has dealt with cataracts and has some degree of hearing loss. He probably has a bit of age-related atrophy of the brain (which explains his need for numerous personal assistants at the North Pole).

I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if his personal physician has him on medication for hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol. Osteoarthritis of his knees, hips and lower back are probably likely given the weight of Santa's sack of toys and climbing from chimney to chimney all over the world. The extreme cold, dry air of the North Pole may cause asthma as well as eczema.

But I expect him to be medically fit to conduct his Santa duties for as long as there are children who believe in the magic of Christmas.

Mitchell Hecht specializes in internal medicine. Send questions to him at: "Ask Dr. H," Box 767787, Atlanta, Ga. 30076. Personal replies are not possible.