By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon, King Features Syndicate
6:51 PM PDT, March 21, 2012
Q: I've been battling a common cold this week. One night, in desperation, I coated the soles of my feet with Vicks, and the cough subsided. I have no idea how that could work, but I don't care. I slept!
A: We are as mystified as you are about this remedy. A nurse told us a decade ago that putting Vicks VapoRub on the soles of her child's feet stopped a nighttime cough. Since then we have heard from scores of other readers that this is helpful. Anyone who tries this strategy should be sure to put on socks over the Vicks to protect the sheets.
Q: Why are doctors so determined that menopausal patients should take estrogen?
When I told my doctor that I am reluctant to take Premarin for fear of cancer, she actually said that cancer is no big deal. It is just a way of life now: Get cancer, get treatment and get over it, is pretty much what she said. I was appalled and have found a new doctor.
A: We share your indignation. Cancer is a big deal, even when treated successfully.
The controversy over hormone replacement therapy (Premarin, Prempro, Estrace and others) has raged for decades. The Food and Drug Administration requires warnings about both breast and uterine cancer in the official prescribing information.
A combination of black cohosh and St. John's wort might ease menopausal symptoms. One study found that French maritime pine bark extract (Pycnogenol) may also be helpful (Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, August 2007; Panminerva Medica, September 2011, Suppl. 1).
Q: A friend and I were both recently diagnosed with perleche or angular cheilitis. Although the prescribed medicine (ciclopirox and fluticasone creams) clears it up, the irritation comes right back.
I have very dry lips, and use lanolin to moisturize them. Could this exacerbate the condition? Are there any effective home remedies or nutritional improvements I could try?
A: In angular cheilitis (perleche), sore, red cracks appear at the corners of the mouth. This painful condition goes hand in hand with dry, chapped lips because the cracks offer a foothold for fungus. That's why the antifungal medicine ciclopirox helps clear it up, together with the strong steroid fluticasone that fights inflammation.
Licking dry lips contributes to the problem. This is a Catch-22, because when lips are dry, there is a great temptation to lick them. That tends to make things worse.
Although lanolin can be an effective moisturizer, some people react badly to it. You might try switching to a different chapped-lip treatment.
Other lip-balm ingredients to watch out for include sunscreens and peppermint. Both can trigger sensitivity reactions. Some people end up in a vicious cycle with their lip products. They get temporary relief, but compounds in the moisturizer actually can be irritating.
Iron or zinc deficiency or an inadequacy of B vitamins might contribute to the cracks in the corners of your mouth. Your doctor could test to see if you are low on any of these nutrients.
In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Send questions to them via peoplespharmacy.com.