A reader wonders about viable alternatives to insect repellents containing DEET. Plus: the power of ketoconazole and the side effects of a cholesterol drug.
Q: I killed a mosquito last night, and that got me thinking about repellents. I have some concerns about DEET, which seems to be the standard.
A few years ago, I was camping with friends. One of them slathered DEET on herself and then poured wine into a plastic glass. Her fingerprints are permanently etched into the wineglass.
I’m hesitant to use a product that etches plastic.
I’ve had reasonable success by wearing a neckerchief permeated with permethrin and applying picaridin repellent.
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A: DEET is an effective insect repellent, but it can behave a little like a solvent. It may dissolve some items, such as plastic watch crystals, paint, nail polish and synthetic fibers. DEET may harm certain breathable fabrics.
Both Consumer Reports and the Environmental Working Group suggest that oil of lemon eucalyptus and picaridin each can serve as an alternative to DEET. They are quite effective repellents. Brand names include Repel Lemon Eucalyptus, Sawyer Picaridin and Natrapel picaridin.
Q: I have found a way to deal with jock itch, which can be troublesome when the weather gets warm. Nizoral A-D shampoo used as a body wash in combination with Zeasorb or similar powder applied after showering is very effective in controlling jock itch and other itching in the folds of the skin.
If I have a stubborn breakout, I add antifungal cream, but daily use of Nizoral A-D and Zeasorb cuts down on the frequency of those breakouts. I also wash my feet with Nizoral and put the Zeasorb powder in my shoes. I think that helps against athlete’s foot.
A: Jock itch describes an irritating skin condition usually caused by yeast overgrowth. Antifungal drugs can be quite helpful, which is why Nizoral A-D shampoo is working so well for you. This OTC dandruff treatment contains ketoconazole, an antifungal medication. Ketoconazole is sometimes prescribed as an oral tablet or a topical cream to treat yeast or fungal infections.
Zeasorb powder absorbs moisture to keep skin dry. In addition, the Zeasorb AF formula contains the antifungal drug miconazole. As you noted, it also can help control athlete’s foot, a different fungal infection.
Q: Statins raise blood sugar. I took them twice, and both times my blood sugar got out of control.
When that happened, the doctor prescribed meds for diabetes. I felt fine without the drugs, but the medicines made me feel sick. The answer was to take more meds, both the statin and the diabetes drugs. Am I really a diabetic if my blood sugar is high only when I am taking a statin?
A: You raise a fascinating question. Many medicines can increase blood glucose levels, including statins, corticosteroids like prednisone, and diuretics. If blood sugar returns to normal when the medicine is discontinued, ask your doctor if there is another way you can control your cholesterol.
We have a list of drugs that may boost blood sugar in our “Guide to Managing Diabetes.” For a copy, send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10) stamped, self-addressed envelope to: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. DM-11, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. Or download it for $2 at: peoplespharmacy.com.