Q: I used zinc oxide cream under my breasts, and it helped tremendously to heal up a red, itchy rash. It also set off the metal detectors at the airport.

The next time I flew, I didn’t use the cream that day. Despite that, I still set off the alarms. I now avoid the cream for two days before flying, since I guess it soaks into my skin.

A: Thanks for the caution. Although zinc is a metal, we haven’t been able to determine whether most airport metal detectors react to zinc oxide creams.

We did find another possible explanation, though. Some diaper rash products or other zinc oxide creams contain glycerin. TSA screening for explosives will sometimes pick this up because of the chemical similarity to nitroglycerin. Avoiding the cream for a few days before air travel seems prudent.

Q: I read with interest the arthritis remedy with grape juice and Certo. Does Certo pectin need to be taken with grape juice, or can it be dissolved in any liquid? I have slightly high blood sugar and would prefer to not use the sweet juice. Are the antioxidant properties found in the juice necessary?

A: We have been hearing about the benefits of Certo in grape juice for decades, and the remedy appears to be considerably older than that. Because it is a home remedy, scientists have not studied it methodically.

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We have relied on readers doing their own experiments to learn that powdered pectin appears to work as well as liquid Certo. A few readers have also tested different juices, such as pomegranate instead of grape.

One reader offered this testimonial:

“I’ve used Certo with tart cherry juice for years; grape juice is too sweet for me. That combination along with two glucosamine tablets a day has been very helpful for my arthritic pain.

“Recently, during an out-of-town trip, I was without these for three days. My arthritis was so bad I could barely move!”

We encourage you to check out the arthritis remedies and the tricks for getting powdered pectin into solution that you will find in Graedons’ Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis. This publication is found in the Books section of the store at PeoplesPharmacy.com.

Q: My mom had AFib during the last four years of her life. (She lived to 90!) She was never told to avoid caffeine and enjoyed her ever-important morning coffee throughout those years without a problem.

A: Some doctors have been advising patients with atrial fibrillation (AFib) to avoid coffee and other caffeine-containing products. That advice was not based on evidence, however.

New research confirms that coffee consumption is not associated with atrial fibrillation. Scientists who reported on the CRAVE trial at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions for 2021 found that people were more likely to experience premature ventricular contractions (PVCs) on days they drank coffee. Unlike atrial fibrillation, however, PVCs are not considered dangerous.

Previous research also found that coffee drinkers were no more likely to experience AFib or other serious rhythm disturbances than those who do not drink it (JAMA Internal Medicine, July 19, 2021). An editorial commented on this research: “The current study suggests that we can tell patients that waking up to a cup of coffee is not a dangerous ritual.”