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People's Pharmacy


My husband and I want to start a family, so I take my temperature every day before I get out of bed. The record I keep lets us know when I have ovulated.

The problem is the thermometer. It is an old-fashioned mercury thermometer we "borrowed" from his parents. He's very sweet about shaking it down and bringing it to me, but I am afraid he might break it. I worry that being exposed to mercury just before I get pregnant would be dangerous for the baby. He says other thermometers aren't as accurate. Is that true?

All old-fashioned mercury thermometers need to be retired. Should yours break, it could expose you to mercury, a highly toxic compound. If your town has a household toxic-waste collection, dispose of your thermometer there.

Electronic thermometers can detect body temperature either under the tongue or in the ear. A new option involves infrared technology. The Exergen temporal artery thermometer is swiped across the forehead and gives an accurate readout in two seconds.

Someone wrote to you about severe hair loss. Why didn't you suggest a test for thyroid problems?

I have had hypothyroidism for years, and I can always tell whether I need a different dose of thyroid hormone. My hair starts falling out, and my nails start splitting.

A lack of thyroid hormone can cause noticeable hair loss, and not just on the scalp. Eyebrows, especially the outer third, are also susceptible to this effect. Thyroid problems can also cause fatigue, depression, difficulty losing weight, constipation, clumsiness and high cholesterol.

I read that avoiding toothpaste with sodium lauryl sulfate could reduce canker sores and passed the suggestion on to my sister. She has had painful canker sores for years. Since switching toothpaste, she's had far fewer. Is it also necessary to avoid SLS in shampoo?

As far as we know, this wetting agent would not contribute to canker sores unless it got into the mouth.

I tried the "soap remedy" for my restless legs, but I didn't know Ivory was the recommended soap. Dove has worked like a charm for me since the first night. My sister-in-law has had success with Dial. This home remedy is such a mystery, but I'm a believer!

We agree: It is not clear why putting a bar of ordinary soap under the bottom sheet would help prevent leg cramps or ease restless legs. But it is certainly less expensive and safer than the approved medication. Doctors prescribe Requip for restless leg syndrome. It is effective, but the side effect of daytime sleepiness could be dangerous for some people.

My wife reads your column and told me about using a vinegar rinse to control my dry scalp. I have had this problem for years. I have used a huge variety of shampoos, including expensive prescription ones. Sometimes my scalp would itch so badly it was difficult to sleep.

The vinegar mixed with an equal amount of water has made a huge difference. Thank you for helping me to control my dry scalp.

I have even started rinsing my dog's coat with this solution after bathing him. He had some areas where the hair was very thin, and it has grown back. We spent hundreds of dollars on vet bills for him, and I am pleased to have solved this problem so inexpensively. I can't thank you enough.

Many people report that vinegar fights dry skin. Some find that rinsing their hands in a vinegar solution is very helpful.

The vinegar rinse might also discourage yeast that live on the scalp and cause dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of this newspaper or e-mail them via their Web site: PeoplesPharmacy.com.

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