Q. I was alarmed to read in your article on sunscreens that benzophenone-3 (BP-3) could be a hormone disruptor. I looked at my sunscreens and found that they did indeed have the active ingredient benzophenone-3. What sunscreen does not have BP-3? My 12-year-old plays tournament tennis, so we as a family spend a lot of time in the sun.
Most parents don't want to expose children to a compound that might disrupt hormones. That is why the concern about BP-3 (also known as oxybenzone) got such attention. This compound, found in many sunscreens and lip balms, can mimic estrogen.
The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization that raised the alarm on this issue, has made some sunscreen recommendations on its Web site, www.ewg.org. Products that rely primarily on zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as the blocking agents are generally on the approved list, which features brands such as Keys Soap Solar Rx, TruKid Sunny Days Face Stick, and oxybenzone-free products from Badger, Blue Lizard, California Baby and CVS.
Gel for joints needs an Rx
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Q. I read about a topical form of diclofenac called Voltaren Gel. It is supposed to be applied to the skin over painful joints like the knee. Is this an over-the-counter or a prescription product?
Americans are familiar with oral nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like celecoxib (Celebrex), diclofenac (Cataflam, Voltaren), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), indomethacin (Indocin), meloxicam (Mobic) and naproxen (Aleve, Anaprox, Naprosyn). Such medicines can relieve arthritis pain, but the price can be increased blood pressure, ringing in the ears, blood clots, upset stomach and bleeding ulcers.
Applying the medication directly on the painful joint may reduce the dose needed to get relief and reduce the likelihood of serious side effects. Voltaren Gel is new to the U.S. market and requires a prescription.
Monitor drug interactions
Q. I take Coumadin to prevent blood clots and have paid attention to potential interactions with food and other medicine. I read in a health newsletter that a full adult dose of Pepto-Bismol is the equivalent of eight aspirins. How serious is this interaction?
The maximum daily dose of Pepto-Bismol contains 2,080 mg of salicylate. This aspirinlike drug could well interact with the blood thinner warfarin (Coumadin). Such a combination could increase the risk for bleeding. Symptoms include bruises, dark stool, nosebleeds or bleeding gums.
People who use arthritis rubs containing methyl salicylate (oil of wintergreen) also may be at risk for this interaction. Products such as Arthritis Formula Bengay, Icy Hot Cream, Mentholatum Deep Heating and Thera-Gesic all contain methyl salicylate. Anyone taking Coumadin must be extremely vigilant to avoid potentially life-threatening interactions.