QUESTION: What are your thoughts on Losec? It works like magic for me. With it, I don't need antacids. I am told it's new and you can't take it for a very long period. I had been taking Tagamet for years, but Losec helps a lot more. Will it cause damage if taken for a long time? - Mrs. G.S.

ANSWER: Losec (omeprazole) effectively abolishes stomach acid by blocking action of stomach enzymes necessary for its production. It is very efficient in that.Yes, unlike any other available acid-lowering drug, Losec does in fact all but eliminate the stomach acid, bringing rapid healing of ulcers. It's for those who have poor results with other ulcer drugs.

So, you might ask, why not get rid of all the acid-neutralizing products and the other drugs that diminish production? For one thing, we aren't sure yet what happens from long-term use of omeprazole. Secondly, not everyone needs such strong acid suppressors. Most do well with older, cheaper medicines.

Thirdly, and perhaps most important, we need some stomach acid to serve digestion needs and provide a barrier to invading germs. Stomach acid sort of denaturizes (cooks) them out of existence.

We don't want to deplete stomach acid for any great length of time. Perhaps, when the lining of your stomach and esophagus have healed, you will find you can return to less strong medicines to keep things in control. Incidentally, eight weeks of omeprazole is the currently recommended length of use.

QUESTION: My husband's elderly mother has come to live with us this winter. My husband usually gets the flu. So if that happens, do we have to keep him away from her? In the past you have stressed the importance of prevention for elderly people. - Mrs. E.M.

ANSWER: Flu viruses are not passed on after day five of the illness, that is from beginning of symptoms. So if you keep your husband and his mother apart for a week, you have a pretty good margin of safety.

Did your mother-in-law have her flu shot? If not, she might still benefit from that, and she certainly should get it done next season. If she is not protected, she can take amantadine as a preventive to keep her flu-free or to ease the symptoms if she gets flu.

QUESTION: I am 37. During the last two months of my last pregnancy, I had pregnancy diabetes. I even had to inject insulin. Now my sugar is normal. I'm told that this problem will recur but not to let that deter me from having more children. Can you comment on the risks? - A.C.

ANSWER: I've gone over this one before. Briefly, gestational diabetes is the kind that occurs during and disappears after pregnancy. It may recur in about half of future pregnancies.

The doctor has to watch you carefully during subsequent pregnancies. It isn't a bar to having more children. Danger to mother and fetus occurs when the problem is not recognized and treated promptly.