People's Pharmacy

People's Pharmacy

June 23, 2006|By JOE GRAEDON AND TERESA GRAEDON

I just read the question posed about removing petroleum jelly from hair and I have a solution. As a child, my mom and her best friend convinced me to let them put huge quantities of Vaseline in my hair. After all, I was being a monster for Halloween, and I'd be scarier with crazy hair!

I spent the next two days in tears while they shampooed my hair with everything from dish soap to Boraxo. Finally, someone suggested Goop, the garage mechanic's hand soap. It finally broke through the inch-thick layer of grease!

Other families have reported that Goop or mineral oil will help work petroleum jelly out of hair. Most of them had put Vaseline on their children's heads overnight (under a shower cap) as a last-resort treatment to smother lice.

I am 46 years old and recently started to have erratic periods. My obstetrician/gynecologist says that I'm nearing menopause and recommended a low-dose birth control pill. Are oral contraceptives safer than hormone replacement therapy? I am concerned about blood clots and breast cancer. I occasionally suffer from menstrual migraines and worry that hormones might make them worse.

Most birth control pills contain estrogen and progestin, similar to the ingredients in hormone replacement therapy. Even a low-dose oral contraceptive has more of these hormones than HRT, so it's hard to say they are safer.

Women who suffer from migraines around the time of their periods may find that these become worse when they take birth control pills. The risks of breast cancer and blood clots are small, but real.

Do any over-the-counter drugs raise blood pressure so that people with hypertension should avoid them?

There are some OTC medicines with this side effect. Read labels carefully. There are warnings against taking oral decongestants (phenylephrine, pseudoephedrine) if you have high blood pressure. Pain relievers such as ibuprofen or naproxen can interfere with the effectiveness of blood pressure medicine and should also be avoided (American Journal of Cardiology, Supplement 1, May 8, 2006).

I am approaching my 60s and have worked outside most of my adult life. Every time I visit my dermatologist, she burns many precancerous spots from my face.

I have an extremely oily face, although the rest of my body is very dry. Can you recommend a sunscreen that will not feel greasy?

With your history, you need a sunscreen every time you go outside. A gel or alcohol-based formulation should not feel oily. Some brands for you to consider include Coppertone Sport Sunblock Gel, LifeGuard Sunscreen or PreSun Ultra Gel. Even with sunscreen, you should stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Also, wear a broad-brimmed hat to shield your face.

Why haven't you written about an effective remedy for alleviating the agony of poison ivy and mosquito or fire-ant bites? Simply run water, as warm as you can stand, over the affected area for a few seconds. The itching and torment is relieved for many hours. Care should be taken to avoid scalding.

We first learned about this home remedy decades ago from a dermatology textbook (Dermatology: Diagnosis and Treatment) written in 1961. Dr. M.B. Sulzberger wrote that the water should be quite hot (about 120 degrees F), because if it is not hot enough, it will aggravate the situation. A few seconds under hot running water or a hot washcloth can stop itching for several hours.

Apparently heat overwhelms the nerve endings that signal itch. Anyone using this technique must take care not to burn the skin.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of this newspaper or e-mail them via their Web site: PeoplesPharmacy.com.

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