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Vinegar won't kill all germs

The Baltimore Sun

I have a 3-year-old and am expecting a new baby in a few weeks. I hate to use harsh chemicals to clean our house and usually rely on good old soap and hot water, sometimes with vinegar or baking soda.

I use bleach or Bon Ami sparingly for some things. I found a recipe for a home cleaner spray -- a simple mixture of white vinegar, water and a few drops of essential oil for fragrance. I spray this mixture everywhere, confident that I could eat it if I had to.

It does a great job on the stainless kitchen sink, microwave, countertops and bathroom sink. I'm under the impression that vinegar will be enough to kill germs, especially bacteria. Is that true? Do I need to add something more caustic to get the germs?

Vinegar is a great cleaner, but we didn't know how well it could kill germs. We asked germ guru Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona, Tucson. He has done field studies on household germs. Gerba said vinegar is useful as a cleaner and has some antimicrobial properties, but it is not considered a sanitizer or disinfectant. For disinfecting, dilute bleach is still best.

My mother-in-law is 86 years old and in reasonably good health. Several months ago, she started complaining about increased pain and seemed very weak and confused. Within a month, she could not walk and was forced to leave her home and move in with her granddaughter.

I looked up her medications and found a drug interaction between simvastatin (40 milligrams) and verapamil. We brought this to the attention of her doctor, who said, "There is no interaction."

On our own, we stopped the simvastatin, and within four weeks she had improved drastically. Two months later, she is now walking without a walker and feels pretty good. She saw the doctor again the other day and her cholesterol was high, so he ordered Vytorin 10/80. I don't get it: If she could not tolerate 40 mg of simvastatin, what makes him think she can take 80 mg as part of a combination? How critical is it to lower cholesterol aggressively in a person her age? She has no history of heart disease.

The blood pressure drug verapamil can indeed boost blood levels of simvastatin (Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics, August 1998). Older people like your mother-in-law may be especially sensitive to the side effects, particularly muscle pain, weakness and mental confusion.

There is no convincing data showing that lowering cholesterol aggressively will extend life in an otherwise healthy person her age. If she can't walk, the quality of her life and the risk of a fall could easily outweigh the drug benefits. We'd like to send you our Guides to Drugs and Older People and Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs for an in-depth discussion of the pitfalls of medications for senior citizens.

Anyone who would like copies, please send $2 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (58 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. OL-858, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.

I am looking for a deodorant that is just a deodorant, not an antiperspirant as well. I can't seem to find one. Your recommendation?

Some readers recommend baking soda. One suggested: "Take a wet washcloth and dip it in baking soda, then apply under your arms. It does not stop you from sweating, but it stops you from smelling." Others prefer milk of magnesia as an underarm deodorant.

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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