Drug labels with tiny print could be dangerous


November 14, 1999|By Joe Graedon, and Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon, and Teresa Graedon,Special to the Sun; King Features Syndicate

Q. Recently, my mom was suffering from severe back pain. She asked me to read the dosage instructions on her pain reliever because the print was so small. I thought she had misplaced her glasses again, but when I tried to read the bottle I realized why she was having difficulty. My vision is corrected to 20/20, and the print was so small I could not read it.

This is potentially dangerous. The manufacturers of over-the-counter pain relievers should enlarge the print on their containers so that consumers, especially those without perfect eyesight, can read the instructions without a magnifying glass.

A. We have been complaining about this problem for decades. It is an outrage that many nonprescription products don't come with legible, intelligible instructions.

Even when you can read the print, very often crucial information on side effects or drug interactions is omitted. Labeling is soon supposed to become more user-friendly, but don't hold your breath.

Q. I have trouble with splitting nails and dry fingertips. I even have trouble flossing my teeth because the fingers become very tender. The dental floss also catches in the nails.

Some months ago I read in your column about a product for brittle nails and dry skin. I lost the article and can't remember the name. Can you please tell me what it is and where I can buy it? I also have terribly dry skin on my legs.

A. We have heard from many readers that Epilyt, sold as a heavy-duty skin moisturizer, is also very good at moisturizing nails. This makes them less brittle and reduces splitting, cracking or chipping.

Epilyt is available from Stiefel Labs at www.stiefel.com. Elon Nail Conditioner is also an excellent moisturizer. For information, call 800-414-ELON.

Detergents and solvents such as nail polish remover can strip away moisture from fingers and fingernails. Avoid exposure by wearing rubber gloves to clean and by forgoing nail polish.

Really dry skin deserves a strong moisturizer. Lac-Hydrin with 12 percent lactic acid works very well but is available only by prescription.

AmLactin Lotion, made by Upsher-Smith Labs, also contains 12 percent lactic acid and is sold at drugstores as a cosmetic, often behind the pharmacy counter.

Skin as dry as yours might indicate a health problem such as an underactive thyroid. Please ask your doctor to check this at your next physical.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of The Sun, Features Department, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278, or e-mail them at their Web site (www.peoplespharmacy.com) on the HealthCentral.com network. Their newest book is "The People's Pharmacy Guide to Home and Herbal Remedies" (St. Martin's Press).

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