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Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Now that kids are back in school, some parents are getting the dreaded phone call. When kids start scratching their heads and lice are detected, parents are called to come get their children, take them home and treat them. Many schools don’t permit kids to come back until they are nit-free.
One mother wrote: “My child picked up lice last year at his elementary school. I had never come across lice before, so I freaked out. I ran to the drugstore and bought the over-the-counter lice treatment.
“Though I tried it twice, neither attempt was even remotely successful. Besides, I worry that the stuff is toxic.
“Then I came across a mention of Listerine [amber]. While combing my son’s hair, I found a louse that I put in a small container with some Listerine. Within a few minutes, it was deader than a doornail.
“That convinced me. I soaked my son’s head with Listerine, put a shower cap on him and left it for two hours. Then I combed and combed with a metal nit comb. I repeated that process every other night, and that solved our problem.”
As this mother noted, over-the-counter products have become less effective because the lice have developed resistance. This leads to a lot of frustration and a search for other options.
A mother wrote from Australia: “I have three kids with waist-length, thick, curly hair. During the past three months, we have been battling head lice from a sleepover. We tried everything: Rid, Nix, even prescription lindane. (It was terrifying to read the label on that stuff.)
“Just when I thought we finally had it under control, school started, and I got a call from the school nurse; we were re-infested, and the school said that out of 90 students, 30 were sent home with head lice! What worked at last was this:
“1. Have the child lean backward over the sink and drench the head in Listerine. Wring the excess out of the hair and put a plastic shower cap on the head.
“2. After an hour, when you take the shower cap off, you will see dead lice stuck inside the shower cap. Get the child into the shower and work some good conditioner through the hair. Use the shower sprayer with one hand and comb through the hair with the other. The lice will fall out onto the shower floor, all dead.
“3. Rinse the scalp with white vinegar. We left it in for a few minutes, then lightly rinsed with conditioner again.
“4. Towel-dry the hair and then comb, comb, comb. The nits will easily comb out with a nit comb, because the vinegar loosens them up.
“5. Redo this whole process in about a week.”
Parents also have used the non-soap cleanser Cetaphil (cetyl alcohol), with good results. Here’s one story: “The Cetaphil treatment works very well. I applied three treatments at one-week intervals to my daughter’s hair, first drenching it and then blow-drying it.
“After just the first treatment, I couldn’t find any more lice in her hair. One Cetaphil treatment kills all the lice, but not the nits, which is why it needs to be repeated.”
More details on these and other lice remedies can be found at www.PeoplesPharmacy.com. Despite the difficulty of overcoming resistant lice, they can be defeated with patience and persistence.
Q: I have had a rash under my breasts for more than a year. It’s very itchy and red, and though I try to keep the area dry and clean, the rash never goes away. I have tried many things, but they all seemed to make the rash worse.
I have big breasts and don’t know if that makes the problem worse. I am embarrassed to go to the doctor for this problem. Are there any remedies that might help?
A: One possible culprit is a yeast or fungus infection. Fungi are responsible for such miseries as athlete’s foot and jock itch. They thrive in warm, damp, dark areas, so it is not surprising they would grow in the skin folds under the breasts.
Many other women report success with anti-fungal creams or powders. One wrote: “I have had a problem with fungal infections under my breasts and in the groin area for many years. Clotrimazole OTC for athlete’s foot works well when I have an outbreak in hot, humid weather.”
Some women find that using cornstarch on clean, dry skin helps to keep it dry and discourages the fungus. Zinc-oxide cream used for diaper rash is another favorite.
You also might try dandruff shampoo. It sounds odd, but dandruff is caused by scalp yeast. Listerine, which can be helpful against dandruff, also has cleared up some under-breast rashes.
If none of these suggestions works, make an appointment with your doctor. The problem might be caused by something other than fungus.
Q: I have suffered with both migraines and depression for years. My doctor prescribed Cymbalta for the depression, sumatriptan for the migraines, Provigil to stay awake during the day and trazodone to sleep at night.
I am experiencing strong heart palpitations, horrible nightmares, muscle spasms, restlessness and insomnia. Could my medicines be causing these symptoms?
A: You are taking three medicines that can interact in a very dangerous way. Duloxetine (Cymbalta), sumatriptan (Imitrex) and trazodone (Desyrel) can trigger a reaction called serotonin syndrome. Symptoms may include agitation, muscle spasms, palpitations, confusion, overactive reflexes and tremor.
We are dismayed that neither your doctor nor your pharmacist spotted this potentially life-threatening combination. Unfortunately, computerized warnings of such hazardous interactions may be ignored or overridden.
You can learn more about serotonin syndrome and other dangerous drug interactions in our book “Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them” (online at www.PeoplesPharmacy.com).
Please contact your doctor promptly to develop a strategy for modifying this regimen. You should be able to treat your depression and your migraines without risking your life.
Q: I have suffered with leg cramps for years. I used to buy quinine in the drugstore until the Food and Drug Administration banned it.
Then I discovered tonic water. I drink a glass every other night, and my leg cramps are no more. If I don’t, they are back within two weeks.
Someone who has never had these cramps cannot understand the pain. In my case, it lasts for two days. If the FDA ever bans the small amount of quinine in tonic water, I will go out and buy every bottle I can find and store them in my cellar!
A: It is unlikely the FDA will ever ban quinine in tonic water. The dose is low, and the hue and cry would be huge. Many others agree that tonic water helps them avoid nighttime leg cramps.
“The People’s Pharmacy with Joe and Terry Graedon” airs Saturday at 7 a.m. on WVTF (89.1 FM) and at 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays on RADIO IQ (89.7 FM). Joe and Teresa Graedon’s column runs in Tuesday’s Extra.
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