People's Pharmacy

Controversy over nasal spray decongestants

April 10, 2008|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon

I have read that using decongestant nasal sprays can be addictive. What are your views on using oral over-the-counter cold remedies for more than seven days? Will these cause any symptoms when I stop?

There is considerable controversy about the effectiveness of the readily available oral decongestant phenylephrine (Annals of Pharmacotherapy, March 2007). Such drugs seem less likely to cause rebound nasal congestion, but they may raise blood pressure in susceptible individuals. Since there is doubt about their benefit, we generally don't recommend them.

I was diagnosed with celiac disease and advised to avoid gluten from wheat, rye and barley. Avoiding gluten in my diet has made a huge difference for me. Are there any resources to help me avoid gluten in pills?

In celiac disease, ingesting gluten triggers the immune system to attack the body, especially the small intestine. This interferes with nutrient absorption. The Food and Drug Administration does not require manufacturers to list gluten on drug labels, but you can look up your medicines at glutenfreedrugs.com.

I have the worst-smelling feet I have ever encountered. I have tried everything to get rid of the odor, and nothing works.

I am a welder and have to wear steel-toe boots. I put odor-fighting insoles in them. They work for a week, and then the smell is back again. My girlfriend always tells me that they are really bad, and they are.

I wash my feet when I get home from work, and three hours later they are really stinky again. Is there anything I can do get rid of this horrible problem?

Such a persistent smell may be caused by bacteria or fungi that have taken up residence on your feet. We have been collecting remedies for this problem for decades. Here are some favorites: Military veterans have reported that urinating on the feet in the shower is a tried-and-true (and cheap) approach. Others tell us that foot soaks with baking soda, dilute vinegar or Listerine can also help. A waitress reported that Campho-Phenique "worked wonders."

I have heard that an ingredient in plastic called bisphenol A can get into foods and beverages from containers. I was so impressed with the evidence of harm that I thought I would see what food I could buy without plastic wrap, plastic containers or cans.

My options were few. I bought a lot of fresh veggies, but had to put them in plastic bags. We don't drink sodas, but many "healthy" drinks come in plastic. I searched for glass-bottled juices and oils but found very few choices. The meats, eggs, "smart" margarines - even the organic versions - all came in plastic containers, and were often wrapped in plastic.

There is a raging controversy about the safety of bisphenol A (BPA) found in polycarbonate plastics. This compound mimics estrogen. Water bottles, baby bottles and the lining of metal cans often contain BPA. Plastic containers may be marked with the recycling code "7."

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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