The People's Perspective on Medicine

Angry Parent Objects To Deet Advice

Q. I was shocked that you recommended DEET for a 12-year-old child at summer camp. Don’t you know that DEET is dangerous for children? Even if he is allergic to chiggers, you had no business telling the parents to send him off with something this dangerous. Guidelines suggest that repellents should be kept out of the reach of children.
A. The child in question is extremely sensitive to chigger bites. As a result, a simple bite can turn into a large itchy red lesion that takes weeks or even months to heal.
We recommended that this 12-year-old spray his socks and shoes to keep chiggers at bay. This corresponds to most guidelines for prudent use, although it does require the boy to use the insect repellent responsibly.
We agree that DEET should be used only cautiously on small children. They may be more susceptible to side effects, especially with high-concentration products applied directly to the skin.
Q. I have found that if I apply antiperspirant to areas such as the groin and under the breasts I can prevent fungal infections and itching 90 percent of the time. My only concern is a rumor I saw in my email about antiperspirants causing breast cancer. Should I worry?
A. The fungi that cause jock itch and related problems thrive in warm moist places. When you use antiperspirant to prevent sweating, you deprive these organisms of the moisture they love.
Some dermatologists recommend applying antiperspirant to the feet to prevent foot odor and athlete’s foot. A double-blind study conducted on more than 600 cadets at the U.S. Military Academy found that those who used antiperspirant on their feet for three nights before a long hike were less than half as likely to get blisters.
The idea that antiperspirants have been linked to breast cancer has circulated widely on the Internet. So far as we can tell, there is no good science behind this claim.
Q. I generally enjoy a drink before dinner and a glass of wine during dinner. I take the blood pressure medicine, verapamil, at bedtime. Are there any interactions I should know about?
A. Verapamil (Calan, Isoptin, Verelan) increases blood alcohol levels. This could magnify the effects of your before-dinner drink as well as your glass of wine. If you had to get up in the middle of the night you might be unsteady and fall.
People often do not realize how many medicines may interact with alcohol to produce unpleasant reactions. Acetaminophen, aspirin, cimetidine (Tagamet), ibuprofen and diphenhydramine (Benadryl) are just a few drugs that might be affected by alcohol.
We are sending you our Guide to Drug and Alcohol Interactions so you will be better informed about anything that might not be compatible with your evening glass of wine. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $2 in check or money order with a long (no. 10) stamped, self-addressed envelope: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. K, P. O. B-ox 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.
Q. With the fuss about the dangers of HRT I stopped taking hormones. Now I have developed vaginal dryness. What can I do about this?
A. Ask your doctor whether Estring would be a safe alternative for you. This prescription vaginal ring lasts three months after insertion. It releases 2 mg of estrogen over that time, which is much lower than typical oral doses of estradiol.

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    About the Author
    Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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