Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Sunscreen and Sun Safety

It is that time! Warm weather has arrived, and I know that all of you are looking at your white legs and your summer shorts and skirts and thinking that you need color! This is the time of year when I am relentlessly hounding my children with a tube in my hand, with those famous words…."You’ll thank me when you’re thirty!!!" They won’t.

All this to say, wear sunscreen. Twenty minutes is the maximum outside without it.

Wear sunglasses. I have too many friends developing macular degeneration and having to have shots in the eyeball to preserve vision.

As for sunscreen types, I have strong opinions. Surprised? Hah! The skin is the largest organ of your body. Therefore, what you put on it matters. There are chemical sunscreens and there are physical sunscreens. I prefer physical sunscreens because these do not introduce a chemical into your body and I really do believe that the fewer chemicals introduced into our systems, the better. Doesn’t this simply make sense? The physical sunscreens are inert minerals that stay on the surface of the skin and actually form a physical barrier to UV radiation. The two minerals used are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. And yes, that was the icky white paste that lifeguards once spread on their noses to prevent sunburn. It works! Now there are different forms of these minerals that are more cosmetically appealing. Look for the micronized form of zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. I DO NOT want you to use the nano-particles of these minerals. This form is too small and could potentially be absorbed in the body. The jury is still out on this formulation. Cosmetically, it is transparent on the skin, which is great, but I have concerns about absorption into the body. The micronized version will look a little white on your skin, but we are talking about preventing cancer and reducing chemicals in the body, so give a little, okay?

These sunscreens are more expensive than the familiar brand name sunscreens, but are a healthier choice. Reading the label is essential. Do not be mislead by the marketing label that says "Mineral Sunscreen" when the label on the back reads "zinc oxide 1%, oxybenzone 9%, etc." This is not what you want. Also, the SPF is not as important as re-applying. Sweating and swimming remove sunscreen, so re-apply regularly. As for brand recommendations, Costco carries The Honest Company brand of sunscreen with zinc oxide as the primary ingredient. It is PABA and dye free, and I use it at home. Blue Lizard is a good brand that most drug stores carry. This web address is a link to the Environmental Working Group and contains both a link to specific sunscreen products and more information on sun safety. I know that a thicker sunscreen is more of a pain to use, but this is important. Introducing fewer chemicals into your body is important. Stay safe!

Healthy summer living with John Hollis Pharmacy!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Pollen Tsunami

It is definitely springtime in Nashville as any item left outside for two hours or more will reappear as a yellow tinged object. This does include children and pets. Even if your loved ones do not look jaundiced, don’t be deceived. They walk in the door with a mother lode of pollen which will wreak havoc on your allergies. We are taking a detour from vitamins today because the lunchroom topic was all about defense mode for the Nashville spring, and the staff agreed that everyone needed a pollen primer.

Take showers at night. Physically removing pollen by washing it down the drain is the first step. At the very least, change the pillow case often. Rolling around in pollen all night helps no one.

We have great over the counter medications, but these need to be started early! It is absolutely okay and even important to begin these medications before symptoms start if you suffer from allergies. One of my physician friends starts her family on a nasal steroid and an oral antihistamine around the time of the Final Four each year and continues until the pollen leaves. Flonase and Nasacort nasal sprays are both available without a prescription, and either one will work. Any of the non-drowsy antihistamines (Zyrtec, Allegra, Claritin) in generic form will be effective. Take it daily. If your antihistamine no longer seems to provide relief, switch from one to another. This usually helps. I have no real preference on brands.

Using a saline spray or Neti-Pot (disgusting, I know, but it works) will also help remove the pollen from the nasal passages. While the pollen count is high, stay inside with the air conditioning on and make sure that your air filters have been changed.

Wrap your mattresses and pillows with allergy covers. These are inexpensive and will help. Wash sheets and mattress pads often. We use a cool mist humidifier with essential oils, also. Get plenty of rest. Going to battle with pollen daily is an exhausting process, and nothing taps out your immune system as quickly as a lack of sleep. Drink fluids, especially water.

If your eyes are prickly feeling or red and itchy, there are several eye drops like Zaditor that were once prescription items but are now available over the counter. Just remember to remove those contacts before using the drops! The bottom line is that there are now a number of medications that were once prescription that are available for use and can help during this rough season. Hang in there!

Healthy living with John Hollis Pharmacy!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Vitamin Confusion

As long as I am pontificating on vitamins, I wanted to take the opportunity to let you know that not everyone needs all vitamins at all times.  There are tons of supplements that can be added to the diet, and we can easily go over the edge trying to keep up with them!  Therefore, I wanted to provide a few hard and fast rules:
1.  Make sure your doctor knows which vitamins/supplements you take daily.  Nothing is completely harmless.  B12 comes close, but we have already covered that.
2.  Recommendations change as information changes.  Remember when vitamin E was all the rage?  New studies associate it with stroke, so only use this if your prescriber directs.
3.  Even aspirin is getting a second look.  Last year, everyone over 40 was supposed to be taking an aspirin a day.  This year, new studies point to the risk of increased bleeding in enough patients that the risk outweighs the benefit in a patient who has not been diagnosed with a medical need.
4.  Remember that all these vitamin suggestions are the equivalent of going to a cafeteria.  Just as no one takes all items from the line, no one needs to take all vitamins.  Take specific vitamins for specific needs based on your prescriber’s recommendation.
5.  Essentials:  In my opinion, it is great to have a vitamin D level and I would suggest vitamin D for anyone over 45 if levels are low.  I think Co Q 10 is great for anyone over 45, and I personally love the B vitamins but if your energy level is fabulous and you have nerves of steel….not necessary!
6.  Other than that, eat a balanced healthy diet and exercise.  More next week.

Healthy living with John Hollis Pharmacy!