Using oily substances in nostrils could lead to shortness of breath

People's Pharmacy

Health & Fitness

March 07, 2004|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon,King Features Syndicate

You recently told readers not to put Vicks VapoRub in the nose. You suggested that camphor, an ingredient in Vicks, might be the problem.

As a pulmonary physician, I can explain the real reason there is a warning against putting Vicks VapoRub in the nostrils. It is not the camphor, but the petrolatum. Petroleum jelly or mineral oil can cause a chronic form of pneumonia when aspirated into the lungs.

Most people inhale minute quantities of their nasal secretions, especially during sleep. Over time, the oil components of VapoRub or petroleum jelly can't be cleared from the lungs. This can lead to cough, shortness of breath and reduced lung capacity.

There are no effective treatment options for this type of pneumonia, so it is never advisable to place any oil-containing substances in the nostrils. Saline nasal spray is a much safer option for keeping the nostrils moist.

Thank you for explaining this hazard. Some people put a dab of petroleum jelly in the nose at night to combat dryness. Based on your explanation, this would be a mistake if done regularly.

I have a delicate problem -- excessive perspiration. I work in an office, and I sweat through my T-shirt and dress shirt, leaving embarrassing stains under my arms that go halfway down my sides.

I've tried a number of different deodorants, and no matter the claims, they don't help. I end up with yellow stains that don't wash out on my T-shirts (and even some dress shirts). I end up throwing the shirts away.

I've heard that there is an injection you can get that stops the glands under the arms from working. Can you tell me about this treatment, or offer a less drastic alternative?

The treatment is called Botox. The injection supplies a controlled dose of purified botulinum toxin A. A recent study presented at the American Academy of Dermatology showed that armpit injections stopped excessive sweating in 75 percent of patients. While the benefits last several months, they are not permanent, and the cost is not trivial ($1,000 or more per treatment).

A low-tech approach might be a prescription-strength antiperspirant containing aluminum chloride, such as Drysol or Xerac AC. To reduce staining from the antiperspirant, apply it only at night on dry skin.

My cholesterol has always ranged around 200, with high HDL and good ratios. Last June my doctor said that was no longer good enough and put me on Zocor.

My cholesterol has dropped to 145, and I am wondering if that is too low. My mother died of a massive stroke and my father of a cerebral hemorrhage. I have no other health problems. Is this ultra-low cholesterol a risk for me?

Very low cholesterol might increase a person's risk of bleeding stroke, which is what killed your father. We urge you to talk this over with your doctor.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019, or e-mail them via their Web site, www.

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