Friday, June 9, 2017

Deodorants and Antiperspirants

Until human perspiration or sweat is fermented by bacteria that grow in hot, humid environments, it is largely odorless.  Bacterial breakdown of perspiration occurs in armpits, feet, and other areas of the body.  The human underarm is warm and the sweat glands provide moisture, making it an ideal location for bacterial fermentation.  Antiperspirants tackle wetness; deodorants tackle odor.  Deodorants are classified and regulated by the FDA and are considered cosmetics.  If the deodorants are combined with antiperspirant agents, they are classified by the FDA as drugs.

Deodorants address the sweat glands that cause odor by using formulas that eliminate or mask that odor.  They often provide an additional scent, and there are some products that address both odor and wetness.  Antiperspirants are applied to the underarm, and should be applied at night before bed when people are sweating the least.  Deodorants may be used on the feet and other areas of the body as well as the underarm.  They are applied after a morning shower. 

There is a myth that if you cannot smell the deodorant, it is not working.  Women frequently apply deodorant several times during the day.  They carry the deodorant in their car, in a purse, or at work.  Most shoppers consider that a product’s scent is a sign that it is effective.  Scent is not an indication of whether the product has failed.  It can still be battling odor and wetness even if a person cannot smell it.

Many people are concerned about aluminum, the active ingredient in many antiperspirants, but studies do not give clear answers.  Natural deodorants are increasing in popularity and may be more expensive.  There are over-the-counter products labeled as “natural deodorant crystal” and contain potassium alum or ammonium alum.  Unfortunately both alums also contain some aluminum.  Deodorants and antiperspirants are available in a stick, cream, or a spray.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Insect Repellants

Because of the increase in outdoor activities during the summer, insect repellants are frequently used in addition to measures taken to reduce the number of insects present in the outdoor environment. Mosquitoes can be a serious problem because they are vectors for diseases than can occur in parts of the US,.  Control measures include wearing appropriate clothing, use of insect repellants, reducing the risk of mosquito bites, and limiting outdoor activities.  An ideal insect repellent should have efficacy against a large number of arthropods and adequate duration of effect.  It should be nonirritating, nontoxic, cosmetically acceptable, cost-effective, chemically stable, and should not stain or damage clothing.

DEET:  broad-spectrum efficacy against mosquitoes, ticks, chiggers, fleas, gnats, and some flies; no evidence that concentrations above 50% increase effectiveness.  Products containing up to 30% are recommended for children.  DEET may damage clothing and plastics.

IR3535:  available in US in concentrations of 7.5% to 20%; must be higher than 7.5% to protect against mosquitoes.  Many products containing IR3535 also contain sunscreen.  These should be avoided since sunscreen is applied more often than repellent.

Picaridin:  used extensively in Europe and Australia; is odorless, low risk for irritation, does not damage clothing, and has no reports for toxicity.  Concentration of 10% in a product recommended.

Oil of lemon eucalyptus:  effective against malaria causing mosquitoes for 6 hours.  Not recommended for use in children under 3 years of age.

Catmint and other essential oils:  limited protection against mosquitoes; good safety profiles.  High concentrations that might irritate skin required for good efficiency

Citronella:  efficiency against mosquitoes usually lasts less than an hour; little evidence of efficacy against other arthropods.

Recommendations for use of insect repellents:
·         Parents should read and follow repellent instructions carefully.
·         Products should be applied to clothing and exposed skin only.
·         Spray formulations should be applied outdoors to minimize inhalant exposure.
·         When returning indoors, the skin should be washed with soap and water.
·         Clothing exposed to repellents should be laundered before wearing again.

Check next blog for specific recommended insect repellents.

Recommended Insect Repellents

The following commercial products are recommended by some pediatricians.  Discuss the use of any insecticide with your child’s pediatrician and read the label for active ingredients.

All Terrain Kids Herbal Armor:  11.5% soybean oil; 10.0%  oil of citronella; 2.0% peppermint  
                                                     oil; 1.5% cedar oil; 1.0% lemon grass oil; 0.05% geranium oil

Avon Skin-So-Soft Bug Guard Plus:  Picaridin – 10%

Avon Skin-So-Soft Original Bath Oil:  None stated

Ben’s 30% DEET Tick and Insect Wilderness Formula:  DEET -30%

Burt’s Bees Herbal:  10% castor oil; 3.77% rosemary oil; 2.83% lemon grass oil; 0.94% cedar

Monday, January 30, 2017

Marijuana Myths

Marijuana is a complex situation because its legal status frequently and rapidly changes.  A high percentage of teens report having used it in a survey beginning with 8th graders.  “Medical marijuana” is available in 23 states.  However, there are many myths surrounding marijuana and its use.  All parents and teens should be aware of these myths.

·         Myth #1 Marijuana is a medicine.  Marijuana itself is not a medicine. Chemicals in marijuana have been extracted and used as a medicine to help nausea and vomiting in adult cancer patients. There are no Food and Drug Administration approved indications for medical marijuana.  Adolescents are affected differently by marijuana than are adults.
·         Myth #2 Marijuana is safe.  Drops in IQ are reported in adulthood if youth are dependent on marijuana before they are 18.  Even if smoking is light and even if the youth stops smoking, brain abnormalities occur and increase with use.  These are not seen in individuals who begin marijuana smoking as an adult.  Accompanying these brain abnormalities are symptoms such as changes in motivation, decision making, attention, functioning of memory, and processing of emotions. 
·         Myth #3 Marijuana can help mood symptoms. There is also no evidence that THC or other cannabinoids are useful in the treatment of mood or anxiety symptoms in adolescents.  Marijuana may worsen several psychiatric problems.  Using marijuana as an adolescent may significantly increase risk of developing schizophrenia as adults.
·         Myth #4 Marijuana has no effect on school work.  There are risks of long-term cognitive changes and psychiatric problems that can affect school performance.  Frequent marijuana use can cause grades to drop, which can in interfere with completion of high school or college.
·         Myth #5 Marijuana is not addictive.  Unfortunately marijuana is addictive and studies show that nearly 9% of users will become addicted and can be as high as 50% in daily users.  Again, risks are higher for adolescents.  Remember that addiction describes continued use despite that use causing significant legal, social, or school and work problems.
·         Myth #6 Marijuana does not affect driving.  Marijuana causes increased risk of accidents by slowing down motor coordination, judgment, and reaction time, similar to alcohol use.
            Driving while intoxicated – even with legal use marijuana – is a criminal offense.

Both parents and youth should be aware of the facts surrounding marijuana, including the fact that over the years, the potency of marijuana has increased because of changes in its processing.  

Friday, October 14, 2016

A Winter Hazard – Ice-Melt Products

Winter is on its way, and with winter comes chemicals used to melt ice.  They cover roads, sidewalks, and driveways.  Dogs may eat them and for a certainty, walk through them, posing a problem with both oral ingestion and dermal contact.  We protect our cars from products containing salt, but allow our dogs to walk unprotected.  Many ice-melt products contain a salt that can become lodged between a dog’s pads, where it heats up, sometimes enough to cause burns.  The dog licks his paws because of the pain, and the salt gets on his lips and tongue.  It can irritate his gastrointestinal system also, and large amounts can trigger seizures and other symptoms.

There are many brands of ice-melts, but the major ingredients are salts including sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium salts (calcium carbonate, calcium magnesium acetate, and calcium chloride).  They may also contain urea based products.  The salts are the most severe irritants of all the ingredients in ice-melts and larger amounts can trigger severe symptoms in a pet.  Urea based ice melts are safer, but can trigger symptoms in large amounts.  Care must be exercised by people who have dogs, but neighbors who have dogs must also be considered.

If you use an ice-melt product in the winter, be certain of the ingredients.  Those safe for pets may be more expensive.  Many veterinarians recommend covering a pet’s paws with booties before a walk and wiping off the paws with a wet cloth as soon as you return to the house.  Also be sure the dog has access to water and is not dehydrated.  This will lessen the harm of the product.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Spicy Foods

More than half of Americans find hot or spicy foods appealing.  The age group most likely to order spicy foods in a restaurant are in the 10 to 34 year age group.  When people are told they must modify their diet, the most likely response is “Don’t make me give up my chilies.  I cannot live without them.”  Eating hot peppers activates areas of the brain related to both pleasure and pain.  In fact, relief and pleasure are intertwined, overlapping in the same area of the brain.  Sensations of pleasure and aversion both rely on nerves in the brain stem.  Researchers feel that the love of heat from spicy foods, particularly those containing chilies or hot peppers, are these two systems of pleasure and pain working together.

Chili peppers are one of the main sources of capsaicin, which gives them their “heat.”  Capsaicin also has many health benefits.  It may lower the risk of intestinal tumors, has possibilities of lowering other forms of cancer, may help fight obesity by boosting metabolic and fat burning rate, and if applied topically, reduces pain.  Eating spicy foods may agree with you and you may enjoy them.  However, limiting them toward bedtime may help avoid indigestion that makes it difficult to get a good night’s sleep.  They are still linked with time spent awake during the night and taking longer to go to sleep.

Friday, August 5, 2016


Sugar tastes wonderful and enhances the taste of other foods.  However, it provides only “empty calories” and is of no nutritional value in that it contains no vitamins or minerals.  It is easy for 4 to 8 year olds to eat 60 or so grams of added sugar a day, which over the period of a year adds up to 50 pounds of sugar.  The USDA Dietary Guidelines recommends that children and adults limit added sugar to 10 percent or fewer of daily calories.  This is about half as much as children ages 4 to 8 are consuming now.  Children are biologically programmed to prefer a higher level of sweetness than adults do.  Sugar is full of calories, and we crave sweet food at an early age.

Young children who consume too much added sugar are at higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, or both.  Children aged 3 to 11 who drink about 12 ounces of sugar-sweetened beverages daily have higher levels of C-reactive protein, an indicator of harmful inflammation in their bodies, than do children who do not consume sugary drinks.  Eating too much added sugar may also trigger metabolic syndrome, which can increase the possibility of having heart disease, diabetes, and strokes.

Naturally occurring sugars in dairy products and whole, fresh fruit are not considered added-sugar because the body does not process them in the same way that it does sugar added to food.  Learn to read labels to help identify added sugar, and try to find nonsweetened products.  Encourage drinking water and limit juices.  Limit soda and lemonade to special occasions.  If your child drinks milk, use plain milk rather than flavored milk.  Be sure your food does not contain added sweeteners like sugar alcohols, stevia or sucralose.  Added sugar may be listed as high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup solids, dextrose, fructose, maltose, or grain syrups.  Words ending in “ose” usually indicate the presence of a sugar.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Affecting about 12% of Americans, more often women and people younger than 45, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) involves chronic diarrhea, constipation, or both, along with abdominal cramping.  It does not alter bowel tissue or put patients at increased risk for colorectal cancer as more serious gut conditions do.  It does cause pain, embarrassment, and anxiety in sufferers who must plan their activities only in places close to a restroom.

Although the FDA has approved two new drugs for treatment of IBS, severe side effects are possible.  A diet developed in Australia eliminates or reduces foods that have been found to trigger symptoms. It is called “Low Fodmap,” an acronym for “fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols,” which are a group of sugars and other food ingredients poorly absorbed in the gut.  Eating foods with low amounts of these substances helps minimize the diarrhea, gas, and bloating.  Compared with a traditional American diet it also reduces the frequency of abdominal pain.  More research is needed to show that this diet does not have a negative effect on gut microbes.