Health & Family

Bare feet attract, spread germs

Q. My daughter's husband and two sons are barefoot guys. They walk all around the house and outside in the gardens in their bare feet. When they come in, they put their feet on upholstered furniture, sometimes even on pillows where they are going to put their faces. They also have a cat that has the run of the house. I am concerned about germs. Am I being too picky?

We think you are being prudent. We recently interviewed Charles Gerba, a professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona. He has studied bathrooms, kitchen sinks, computer keyboards and now shoes.

He's found that shoes are frequently contaminated with bacteria that could cause disease. If shoes can track fecal bacteria into the house, so can bare feet. Your daughter's guys should rinse their feet when they come inside to avoid spreading germs on couches and pillows. The rest of us may want to follow the Japanese custom of leaving shoes at the door.

Sun-induced rash

Q. I often get a very itchy sun rash when I first go on holidays. Listerine calms it down so I can sleep and soon clears it. It also soothed an allergic reaction after a massage. I don't travel without it.

We always encourage people to avoid excessive sun exposure. Spring and early summer are especially dangerous because people are pale from staying inside most of the winter.

An itchy sun rash is different from sunburn or an allergy. You may be suffering from PMLE (Polymorphous Light Eruption), a hypersensitivity to ultraviolet light that is common this time of year. A dermatologist should check you out to make sure you don't have a more serious autoimmune condition such as lupus.

Migraines and gluten

Q. One of your readers requested natural recommendations for migraines. I had tried many migraine treatments. Then I developed wheat intolerance, and since quitting grains (wheat, rye, barley, oats), I have not suffered a migraine for almost two years. There are a lot of wonderful gluten-free products now.

Gluten intolerance, or celiac disease, often has neurological symptoms such as migraines or forgetfulness. Not everyone with migraines has celiac disease, but it is worth testing to rule out this condition. It is treated by avoiding wheat, barley and rye.