Archive for January, 2010

PEOPLE’S PHARMACY: Natural remedies for stubborn cough?

Q: I’ve had a cold and have been coughing and stuffed up for days. I have read that using nasal sprays can be addictive. Cough medicines are not helping much either. I would prefer some natural approaches that don’t cause rebound congestion. What can you suggest?

A: The usual ingredient in cough syrup, dextromethorphan, is no better than placebo for kids and only modestly effective for adults (Journal of Family Practice, October 2009).

Natural alternatives that may provide some relief include tea made of thyme or ginger.

Elderberry and Chinese herbs such as andrographis or astragalus also might be helpful.

Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist, and Teresa Graedon is an expert in medical anthropology and nutrition. In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. 
E-mail them via their 
Web site: www.peoples
pharmacy.com. They can be reached at peoplespharmacy
@gmail.com.

Become a fan of AJC Health Care on Facebook and follow ajchealthcare on …

Continue reading PEOPLE’S PHARMACY: Natural remedies for stubborn cough? »

ASK DR. H: Dander root of pet allergy

Q: Why is it that I’m so allergic to cats but not to dogs? — J.W., Birmingham

People tend to be more allergic to cats because of their dander. AP Photo/ 24/7 Media, Suzanne Mapes

People tend to be more allergic to cats because of their dander. AP Photo/ 24/7 Media, Suzanne Mapes

A: The answer, in a word, is dander. The trigger for pet allergies is not their hair. In fact, cats that are short-haired traditionally give off more allergen. Protein in the skin of pets triggers allergies in susceptible people. It flakes off their dry skin, gets in their fur as dandruff and spreads when the pet grooms itself with its tongue.

Veterinary research has shown us that twice as many folks have cat allergies as dog allergies. It may be that the protein in a cat’s skin is more allergy provoking than a dog’s or simply that cats give off a greater quantity of dander.

Because dander collects in carpeting, the fabric of furniture and in bedding, it’s better for those who suffer from pet allergies to have hardwood or tile floors and leather furniture. If you have carpeting, steam …

Continue reading ASK DR. H: Dander root of pet allergy »

HEALTHY EATING: Dining tips from dietitians

By Carolyn O’Neil, for the AJC

Ever been out to dinner with a dietitian? I must confess, sometimes it
 can be a lesson in best practices for becoming a high maintenance customer — reminiscent of the deli scene in the 1980s hit movie “When Harry Met Sally…” when the character Sally was very particular about her order for pie à la mode: “I’d like the pie heated, and I don’t want the ice cream on top. I want it on the side. And I’d like strawberry instead of vanilla, if you have it. If not, then no ice cream, just whipped cream, but only if it’s real. If it’s out of a can, then nothing.”

You’ve got to admit that Sally knew what she wanted and was very specific about the details.

I’m a registered dietitian and attempt to eat as healthfully as possible and share guidance on the topic in this column.

But while dining out during the American Dietetic Association’s annual conference in Denver, I was overwhelmed with the enthusiasm of my nutrition-minded …

Continue reading HEALTHY EATING: Dining tips from dietitians »

PEOPLE’S PHARMACY: Remedies for dry hands?

Q: I am a preschool teacher and have to wash my hands dozens of times a day in the attempt to avoid colds and flu. I am suffering the worst case of dry winter skin I can remember, with deep, painful cracks around my fingernails. I’ve tried everything under the sun. My hands are still a mess. Help!

Hopefully your skin isn't quite this dry, but winter can really wreck havoc on the flesh. Joey Ivansco/AJC Special

Hopefully your skin isn’t quite this dry, but winter can really wreck havoc on the flesh. Joey Ivansco/AJC Special

A: Cold, dry air and frequent hand-washing are guaranteed to cause dry-skin misery. Readers tell us that using lip balm on the cracks is sometimes helpful. Another approach for cracked fingertips is instant glue. A safer solution might be liquid bandage, such as New-Skin or the Band-Aid brand. Wearing cotton or disposable vinyl gloves over a greasy moisturizer overnight can also help heal dry, cracked skin.

Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist, and Teresa Graedon is an expert in medical anthropology and nutrition. In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters …

Continue reading PEOPLE’S PHARMACY: Remedies for dry hands? »

HEALTHY EATING: Cut down on salt in diet

By Carolyn O’Neil, for the AJC

Talk about spicing things up! Move over, trans fats; salt is under fire as the next nutrition no-no on its way out from restaurant menus and processed foods.

Sodium levels in foods have been on the nutrition watch list for years because too much sodium in the diet is associated with high blood pressure, which can increase the risk for heart attack and stroke.

But now health officials in New York are asking restaurants and makers of packaged foods to shake the salt habit and cut levels of sodium by 25 percent over the next five years. The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s plan is called the National Salt Reduction Initiative, and it involves other cities and states including North Carolina and Tennessee in the Southeast, but not Georgia as of yet.

Who should care about consuming too much salt? Just about everyone, according to a public health alert on sodium intake from health watchers at the Centers for Disease Control …

Continue reading HEALTHY EATING: Cut down on salt in diet »

ASK DR. H: Players can benefit from video games

Q: Do you think there’s any benefit to my 9-year-old granddaughter playing video games? — P.L., Atlanta

Can playing video games offer health benefits? AP Photo/Paul Sakuma

Can playing video games offer health benefits? AP Photo/Paul Sakuma

A: Believe it or not, psychologists have found that carefully chosen non-violent games do have some surprising brain-enhancing benefits.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota looked at existing research on video games and found that avid video game players are fast and accurate information processors, not only during game play, but in real-life situations as well. For example, regular video gamers got faster not only on their game of choice, but on a variety of unrelated lab tests of reaction time. Additionally, the researchers found that contrary to the popular belief that fast decisions lead to more mistakes, avid gamers do not lose accuracy (in the game or in lab tests) as they get faster. They also found that playing video games enhances performance on mental rotational skills, visual and …

Continue reading ASK DR. H: Players can benefit from video games »

PEOPLE’S PHARMACY: More praise for odd underarm odor cure

Q: I just tried milk of magnesia (MoM) as an underarm deodorant, and it works great! I couldn’t believe it. I teach step and hi-lo aerobics for a living, and I get very sweaty and stinky. The MoM worked through three straight hours of weights and aerobics, and I smell fresher than when I use deodorant.

A: We have heard from many other readers that milk of magnesia can be helpful as an underarm deodorant. It contains no aluminum and may be less likely to irritate delicate skin. One person reported: “Even so-called mild deodorants irritate my armpits. Milk of magnesia doesn’t. I just apply with my fingertips, and a little goes a long way. It’s been very effective for up to 24 hours and sometimes longer, even when I’m doing a lot of perspiring. It takes a few minutes for it to dry, but it leaves no residue on clothes, which surprised me. I’m sold.”

Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist, and Teresa Graedon is an expert in medical anthropology and nutrition. In their …

Continue reading PEOPLE’S PHARMACY: More praise for odd underarm odor cure »

ASK DR. H: Heat from microwave could degrade pills

Q: I’ve been putting my medication on top of my microwave oven for many years. It’s convenient and I never forget them. Does the microwave have any effect on my medication? — D.S., Exeter, Pa.

A: It might, only from the standpoint that medications have a recommended storage temperature and heat generated from placing pills on an oven of any type could cause pill degradation. The closer you place the pills toward the rear fan, the more heat they’ll receive. And obviously, a minute or two of use to reheat leftovers won’t generate as much heat as cooking a turkey or casserole.

While we’re on the subject of microwaves, several readers have asked me if I thought they are safe to use long-term.

Microwaves do not leave any residual radiation behind, since microwave energy is converted to heat energy as soon as it’s absorbed by food.

As soon as you open the microwave door, the magnetron that produces microwaves ceases immediately. It’s like a light bulb in that …

Continue reading ASK DR. H: Heat from microwave could degrade pills »

HEALTHY EATING: Trends you might be seeing in ’10

By Carolyn O’Neil, for the AJC

Do you find yourself leaning toward the vegetarian entrees on the menu even though you’re not a vegetarian? Are you steering away from super-salty foods? When shopping for packaged foods, do you prefer those with a short list of ingredients? Do you still order burgers every once in a while but insist on a really good one?

If your answers are “yes” to any of these questions, then it’s possible you’re being watched by researchers who forecast food trends.

Of course, there are still powerful forces driving the bus toward over-the-top indulgences such as deep-fried macaroni and cheese or mile-high chocolate cakes. That’s why so many Americans are still so overweight.

But on the other side of the scale (literally), there’s a strong list of consumer trends that indicate more people are choosing healthier foods so they can be healthier, too.

Flexitarian is the new vegetarian. Where’s the beef? Well, maybe you only eat it once a …

Continue reading HEALTHY EATING: Trends you might be seeing in ’10 »

PEOPLE’S PHARMACY: Nut allergies can surface suddenly

Q: My partner ate just one Brazil nut, and within minutes his tongue swelled to five times its thickness and doubled its width. He could barely talk. He took an antihistamine (chlorpheniramine), and we called the doctor. The doctor said that if the reaction worsened, he should go to the hospital. He has no allergies to anything else and never knew he was allergic to Brazil nuts.

A: Your partner will need to avoid Brazil nuts in the future. Allergic reactions to these nuts are not uncommon, and they can be life-threatening. Some people experience a reaction that requires emergency medical treatment with epinephrine.

The traditional holiday nut bowl may lead to unexpected exposures. Here is a report from another reader: “For years at Christmas, my eyes would get irritated and watery. One holiday season, I was at my friend’s house, and his children needed some nuts cracked. I picked up a Brazil nut and cracked it.

“Within seconds, my eyes started watering, so I rubbed …

Continue reading PEOPLE’S PHARMACY: Nut allergies can surface suddenly »