Zinc oxide blocks UV rays


June 26, 2008|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon

I've been advised to use diaper-rash ointment containing zinc oxide to keep my horse's muzzle from getting sunburned while he's grazing. I've been wondering if this would also work to keep me from developing a "horsewoman's tan." All of the sunscreens I have tried help me avoid sunburn, but I have brown arms from the edge of my gloves to the edge of the short-sleeved shirts.

For decades, lifeguards have used white zinc oxide to keep their noses from burning. It blocks both UVA and UVB rays and provides excellent protection.

You could try the diaper-rash ointment or get a sunscreen that contains both zinc and titanium. New formulations contain microfine particles that don't leave a distinctive white color. Human sunscreens can also be used on horses to keep pale skin from burning.

You often write about toenail fungus, but I want to know how to get rid of fingernail fungus. I have it in both thumbnails.

There are many inexpensive home remedies that might help. None works for everyone, but readers have sent testimonials like this one:

"My doctor told me I had a bad case of toenail fungus. I got a bowl and a bottle of Listerine and soaked my toes in the Listerine every morning while doing my hair. (That took about five minutes.) My nails cleared up in three months.

"My husband also used it. He soaked his nails while watching TV. This has been a great cure and does not cost a lot."

If home remedies don't work, your doctor can prescribe medications such as Lamisil, Sporanox or Penlac.

I have diarrhea regularly. Your column has some great suggestions for more natural remedies. What I have the most success with is Pepto-Bismol. Are there any ingredients in it that would make it harmful to take one or two tablets three or four times a week?

Pepto-Bismol has a long history dating to the early 20th century. It was originally developed to treat severe diarrhea in babies.

The active ingredient is bismuth subsalicylate. It remedies a wide range of digestive problems including heartburn, diarrhea and nausea. Since the label says you can safely take up to 16 tablets in 24 hours, your dose is not unreasonable.

Despite its good safety record, Pepto-Bismol is not meant to treat a chronic condition. Too much bismuth can lead to loss of appetite, canker sores and poor absorption of nutrients. The salicylate component can cause ringing in the ears. You should check with your doctor about the cause of the diarrhea to see if that can be addressed.

It is now time for yardwork and gardening, and the chiggers are out. How can we keep them off?

Spray DEET insect repellant on shoes and socks, or get flowers of sulfur from a pharmacy, garden store or online. Sprinkle it on shoes and socks, and tuck the cuffs of your pants into socks to keep the chiggers off.

I heard on the news that red yeast rice can help lower cholesterol, but I'd like to know more about the pros and cons. Are there dangerous side effects? Someone told me red yeast rice can cause liver problems. Is that true?

Red yeast rice is a Chinese product that has been used for centuries in food as a preservative, flavoring and coloring agent. It makes Peking duck red, for example, and is used in red rice vinegar. It also has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for indigestion and to promote blood circulation.

Red yeast rice can lower cholesterol. It contains some compounds related to statin-type cholesterol-lowering drugs such as lovastatin (Mevacor). A recent study in China shows that red yeast rice can nearly halve the risk of a second heart attack (American Journal of Cardiology, June 15, 2008).

Some people experience side effects, including muscle pain, weakness and liver damage.

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: peoplespharmcy .com.

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