THB, Banditos, Wayward and more confirmed for Cosmic Cocktail!

People's Pharmacy

The Baltimore Sun

This is surely not one of the more important or serious questions you might be asked, but will you please offer some remedies to help fade spots (age or liver spots) on the hands and elsewhere on the body?

Age or liver spots are officially called "solar lentigines." These brownish spots frequently show up on the face and other places where people have been exposed to excess sun.

Dermatologists have traditionally recommended fade creams that contain hydroquinone (found in products such as Esoterica and Porcelana). It is highly controversial, however. The Food and Drug Administration is threatening to ban hydroquinone because of animal studies suggesting that it might have cancer-causing properties. The European Union has already banned hydroquinone from cosmetics.

Many dermatologists maintain that in the low concentrations found in over-the-counter products, hydroquinone poses no risks. Nevertheless, you may want to consider other options. One is the prescription acne or anti-wrinkle cream tretinoin (Avita, Retin-A, Renova) applied once daily for six months. Dermatologists can also eliminate age spots by freezing them with liquid nitrogen or by using a laser or intense pulsed light (IPL) therapy.

Whatever you do to eliminate age spots, reduce sun exposure from now on. Use a UVA and UVB sunblock that contains zinc or titanium to prevent recurrences.

If you are going to zap your kitchen sponges in the microwave to disinfect them, make sure they are wet. Dry sponges could start a fire.

Even a wet sponge might not be safe in the microwave. One reader reported: "I just wanted to let you know that we microwaved our WET sponge this morning, and it caught on fire. Now our house smells, and we're not sure about the microwave. It was pretty scary AND annoying at 6:30 in the morning!"

Another reader added: "I am surprised you advocate disinfecting sponges in the microwave. I read about this in a cooking magazine and tried it, placing my DAMP sponge in the microwave for two minutes. We then left the house. Upon our return, we noticed a burning smell the minute we walked in the door. The sponge had ignited, ruining the microwave. We now disinfect our sponges by boiling them in water on the stove."

My father-in-law has completely cut out all green leafy vegetables because he is taking the blood thinner Coumadin (warfarin). Must he really eliminate all these healthy vegetables?

Anyone taking Coumadin must be extremely careful about interactions with food and other medicines. Green leafy vegetables contain vitamin K, which can counteract the effectiveness of the blood thinner, but they might not need to be dropped from the diet completely. As long as your father-in-law keeps his vitamin K intake constant, the doctor can adjust the dose of warfarin accordingly.

I heard a radio program about an over-the-counter product that can be put on the hair, then dried with a hair dryer. The result is a sort of shrink-wrap effect that kills head lice. Do you know what this product is?

Look for Cetaphil facial cleanser in your pharmacy. Coat the hair with Cetaphil and leave it on the scalp for two minutes. As you blow-dry the hair, the Cetaphil will harden and suffocate the lice. Rinse the Cetaphil off after eight hours.

I am a family physician who is frustrated with the side effects of muscle aches that plague many of my patients on statins. One of my colleagues heard you discussing a natural remedy that might counteract this complication, but she couldn't remember what it was.

A reader provides one possible answer: "My doctor prescribed a statin for my high cholesterol. After a couple of months I had pains in my legs and weakness. I had trouble getting up from a chair. I switched to a different statin, and when the discomfort started again, I was about to give up. Then I added Coenzyme Q10 to my regimen. After several weeks I noted an improvement. I am now pain-free and am able to sit and stand without difficulty."

Patients with muscle pain also must be tested for rhabdomyolysis, a potentially life-threatening breakdown of muscle tissue.

In one of your articles you stated that a reader used New-Skin Liquid Bandage to help remove skin tags. Please address this again and describe how the New-Skin was used. I recently saw a dermatologist, and he wanted $300 to remove about 12 small tags.

A few years ago we heard from a reader who had managed to get rid of skin tags (benign fleshy growths) by covering them tightly with a Clear Spots Band-Aid. Several months ago, another reader reported that he had tried the Band-Aids but "could never get a bandage to stay on long enough."

He was about to give up when he ran across some liquid bandage in his medicine cabinet. He told us he "had a large flap growing on my shoulder and put the New-Skin Liquid Bandage on it. Within a week the flap fell off. I put it on some smaller skin tags and they shriveled and fell off too."

Sadly, this reader provided no clear instructions. But subsequently we have heard from many people who have applied liquid bandage one or two times daily with good results. One wrote: "New Skin for skin tags worked for me, too! I did reapply the product several times, and they did shrink and were pulled off when removing the 'bandage' after about 10 days. This saved me quite a bit of money I would have paid to my doctor."

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:

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