Q: I get nosebleeds when the furnace runs a lot in the winter. I think it is the dry air.
My doctor recommended that I use Vaseline in my nose to keep it moistened.
I think I read in your column that you should not put too much Vaseline in your nose because it could irritate the lungs.
Is this really true?
A: We recently saw a suggestion in Consumer Reports (March 2010) that “a pea-sized dollop of petroleum jelly inside the nostrils” could prevent nosebleeds. Used rarely, this approach might not be dangerous.
We have heard from lung specialists that petroleum jelly can migrate from the nose to the lungs. As it builds up, it could cause an inflammatory condition called lipoid pneumonia.
If you look at the label of Vicks VapoRub, a product containing petrolatum, it states clearly “Do not use in nostrils.” A water-soluble moistener such as K-Y Jelly might be a better choice.
We heard from another reader: “Please reprint the article about not using Vaseline in the nose because it can cause pneumonia.
“That article may have saved my life, and others need to know.”
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.