Health Topics

The pharmacist to patient newsletter


Dealing with diaper rash

Diaper rash is one of the most common skin problems affecting babies. In most cases, the area covered by the diaper develops a chafed or irritated look, with redness, raised red spots and scaling of the skin. In severe cases the skin may even crack, ulcerate or develop sores.

Diaper rash can be prevented by changing diapers frequently to keep the area around the buttocks dry. This is particularly important during periods of diarrhea.

If your child suffers from a case of diaper rash, you should aim to keep the area as dry as possible. Leave the baby’s diaper off for as long as possible during the day to allow the area to air dry. Some pediatricians advise parents to wash the diaper area only when feces are present. When washing is necessary, choose a mild soap instead of commercial diaper wipes (which have chemicals that may irritate the baby’s skin) and pat the area dry after washing. Petrolatum or zinc oxide are also effective protectants against diaper rash.

If the diaper rash persists for more than two to three days, your baby may have a fungal (Candida) infection. See your physician as a topical antifungal product may be needed.

Help for a hairy situation

Head lice are a common problem–especially among children. Because lice are transmitted by close contact, children playing together or exchanging clothing such as caps or hats are likely candidates for the condition.

The best way to see if someone has lice is to inspect their head regularly to look for the nits (eggs) that the lice lay. Nits are white, about 0.5 to 0.8 mm long and attach themselves to the shaft of the hair near the root. When hatched, the adult lice are very difficult to see. They are no larger than a pin head, are reddish brown or greyish in colour and can survive for about 23-30 days.

Your pharmacist can recommend a good pediculicide shampoo to kill both the lice and their eggs. Be sure to follow instructions carefully when using these products. If the chemical pediculicides are not totally effective, you can try rubbing olive or baby oil into the scalp for several days. (The oil blocks the holes through which lice breathe and causes them to suffocate.)

Spraying furniture, bedding, sofas etc. with pediculicides made for this purpose can be beneficial but it’s not entirely necessary. Bedding and hats should be left in a tightly sealed garbage bag for 10 days to kill the pests. Clothes should be washed in hot water followed by a 20-minute hot drying cycle. Combs and brushes should be disinfected by placing them in hot water for at least half an hour.

Snackers beware

Most people think a mid-afternoon coffee and cookie will provide energy and stave off hunger until dinner time. In fact, caffeine and sugar together can trick the brain into believing blood sugar has fallen, causing symptoms of hypoglycemia, including shaking, sweating, weakness and intense hunger.

A foot note for diabetics

While good foot care isimportant for everyone, patients with diabetes have to pay particular attention to their feet. Nerve damage caused by diabetes can make the feet less sensitive to temperature extremes and other painful stimuli. Infections develop easily and take longer to heal.

Here are tips to help keep your feet healthy:

  • keep your feet clean; wash them during a bath or shower using warm, soapy water and a soft cloth
  • be sure to dry your feet properly using a soft towel
  • rub lotion on your feet to keep them soft, and use powder between the toes to keep them dry
  • use an emery board to shape your toenails evenly with the ends of your toes, preferably right after a bath or shower; stay away from metal nail clippers
  • avoid going barefoot when out of doors; always wear shoes and socks
  • invest in a good-fitting pair of walking shoes with thick rubber soles, and be sure your socks fit smoothly with no wrinkles
  • since patients with diabetes often have reduced blood flow to the feet, try to avoid crossing your legs and keep both feet on the floor when sitting
  • get up and walk every once in a while to ensure proper circulation
  • keep your feet warm–wear socks to bed

Finally, have your feet checked at every doctor’s appointment and report any tingling, or burning sensations. You should also do a foot check yourself daily by looking for breaks in the skin as well as temperature, size or colour changes. If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your physician.

In the pink

Are your eyes painful and red? Do you notice a greenish-yellowish discharge that is crusty and dried when you wake up in the morning? Chances are you have bacterial conjunctivitis–better known as pink eye–which is a common infection, especially in children. Conjunctivitis appears as redness or inflammation of the thin membrane which lines the white parts of the eye and the inner part of the eyelid. It can be caused by a bacterial or viral infection. (An allergy, irritants in the environment or an eye injury can cause noninfectious forms of conjunctivitis.)

Because bacterial conjunctivitis is extremely contagious and is often spread by contaminated fingers, you should wash your hands frequently and avoid sharing towels, sheets or pillowcases with other family members. Contact lens wearers should wear glasses until all signs of the infection are gone.

Although most cases of pink eye clear up within a week or two without medication, it’s best to see your physician for a definite diagnosis. In some instances you may need a prescription antibiotic (eye drops or eye ointment) taken several times a day to remedy the infection. You can ask your pharmacist to show you how to apply the medication properly.

Warm and wet compresses applied in the morning can also provide relief by helping to loosen the dried discharge around the infected eye.

Prostate cancer:
early detection is key

The prostate is a part of the male reproductive system–a small chestnut-shaped organ made up of small glands and fibrous tissue–which is located just below the bladder and in front of the rectum.

In some cases, cancer cells grow in the prostate but never cause any symptoms and never spread beyond the prostate itself. However, the cancer can sometimes form a lump in the prostate and cause difficulty with urination; in more advanced cases the cancer may even spread to other parts of the body. (Keep in mind that difficulty urinating can be the sign of less serious conditions so check with your doctor.)

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, more than 18,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer in Canada every year, and the condition is most common in men over 70. Early detection of prostate cancer–while it is still confined to the prostate gland–offers the best chance of cure or control. As a result, your physician should screen you for prostate cancer on a regular basis. If a tumour is found early and confined to the prostate gland, it can be surgically removed or treated by radiation. Sometimes hormone treatment is used, especially if the cancer has spread outside the prostate to other parts of the body.

Some of the symptoms of prostate abnormalities include: pain or burning while urinating, a weak urine stream or dribbling and the need to urinate frequently.

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This newletter is provided by pharmacists to their pharmacy patients and customers and is designed to keep you up-to-date on important health information.

As the leading expert on medications, your community pharmacist is a valuable resource for your health information needs. If you have questions about the material in this newsletter –or any other medication-related questions–be sure to ask your pharmacist.

Health Topics is produced by Pharmacy Practice and published by Maclean Hunter Healthcare, 777 Bay St., 5th Floor, Toronto, Ontario M5W 1A7. For enquiries, please call (416) 596-3496 Fax: (416) 596-3499.