A reader shares an unusual approach to warding off insects. Plus: acne home treatment and a discussion of how to go off antidepressants slowly and safely.
Q: You’ve written about bug spray, and I want to share my solution. I apply Listerine to my arms and head before I work outside. I have never gotten bitten when I do this. The effect lasts for at least three hours.
A: So far as we know, Listerine has not been tested as a mosquito or tick repellent. However, you are not the only one who has used this product to keep bugs away. Another reader wrote: “Amber Listerine antiseptic has eucalyptus oil in it. I keep a spray bottle with a 50 percent solution mixed with water handy when I’m planning to go outside in the grass or at dusk when the mozzies (mosquitoes) are around.”
People who prefer repellents that have been tested and found effective will want to look for products with DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus or picaridin. Such ingredients also may diminish the likelihood of attracting ticks when they are sprayed on shoes, socks and pants legs.
Q: I have had acne since the age of 13. I have found a very simple approach most helpful.
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I purchased about 20 white washcloths so I can change them daily. I use a salicylic acid cleanser before bed and benzoyl peroxide in the morning. This routine keeps my face clear. I think the twice-daily cleansing plays a big part.
A: Another reader also reported success using a fresh washcloth each time she washed her face. Both salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are effective over-the-counter acne medicines. Be sure to use an effective sunscreen, though. Benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid can increase sensitivity to UV rays and lead to a bad sunburn.
Some researchers suggest that cutting back on refined carbs and sweets also may be helpful (Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, September 2017).
Q: I have been on venlafaxine for two years. I am now feeling happy and would like to get off this antidepressant medication. My doctor believes I should just stay on it.
Whenever I have tried to stop, I feel bad. I think it is the aftereffects of being on the drug, as I am not depressed. Some drugs are hard to get off. Is venlafaxine one of them?
A: Venlafaxine (Effexor), like many other antidepressants, can be difficult to discontinue. The official prescribing information lists agitation, anxiety, muscle twitches, confusion, dizziness, nausea, nervousness, headaches, insomnia, electric shocklike sensations and other symptoms when people stop taking this drug.
Doctors are advised to help patients reduce the dose gradually rather than stop suddenly. Unfortunately, neither the drug company nor the Food and Drug Administration offer specific tactics to accomplish this. For some people, withdrawal may take many months.
You can learn more about the pros and cons of venlafaxine and other antidepressants in our “Guide to Dealing With Depression.” It also discusses withdrawal strategies. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (71 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. E-7, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for $2 from our website: www.peoplespharmacy.com.
One reader wrote about her approach: “I decided I would open up the capsule and take one less pellet every two weeks. I did this for over a year and finally reduced my dosage by half. After a couple of months stabilizing myself at the lower dosage, I started reducing it again by a pellet a week.”