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People’s Pharmacy: Vicks overpowered athlete’s foot

Aug. 31, 2022 Updated Wed., Aug. 31, 2022 at 9:17 a.m.

By Joe Graedon, M.S., and Teresa Graedon, Ph.D. King Features Syndicate

Q. I had athlete’s foot for 30 years. Nothing helped until I finally started using Vicks VapoRub on my feet after showering and drying them. This ointment also works on itchy skin.

A. Vicks VapoRub contains several plant oils that have anti-fungal activity, including camphor, eucalyptus oil, thymol, menthol, cedar leaf oil and nutmeg oil.

Another reader remarked on using Vicks for athlete’s foot: “I have had positive results from using Vicks. It stops foot skin fungus, but only attenuates toenail fungus and does not eliminate it.”

Still another person offers a different drugstore remedy for athlete’s foot: “I got athlete’s foot in my college showers and tried numerous anti-fungal medicines. The infection always came back.

“I finally started washing my feet nightly with alcohol gel instead of soap, making sure to apply between the toes. Since I started that, the athlete’s foot has not recurred. It’s been about 10 years now, but I’m never planning on stopping.”

Q. I was prescribed amiodarone for intermittent self-limiting atrial fib after cardiac stent implantation. Within four months, I felt like the walking dead.

Fortunately, the cardiac rehab nurse noticed my symptoms and called the cardiologist. She literally bawled him out, and I was off amiodarone that day.

When I later stopped by the pharmacy to pick up my prescriptions, I told the pharmacist I was off amiodarone. He said, “Your body is already thanking you.” Why don’t doctors warn you about potential side effects?

A. Perhaps the cardiologist worried that if he told you about amiodarone side effects, you would be reluctant to take it. A black box warning in the prescribing information says that only patients with life-threatening irregular heart rhythms should take amiodarone, because it causes serious toxicity for the lungs and the liver.

We have heard from many readers of this column that the drug led to irreversible pulmonary fibrosis. Symptoms can include shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing up blood.

In addition, amiodarone can interfere with normal thyroid function and damage nerves, leading to lingering pain and even visual problems. Paradoxically, this drug can sometimes make heart rhythm disturbances worse. We’re pleased that the rehab nurse was looking out for your best interests.

To protect yourself from future drug problems, you may wish to ask the questions listed in our book, “Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.” If your local library doesn’t have a copy, you can find it in the store at

Q. My husband takes several prescription medicines for his health issues. He also has Type 2 diabetes, controlled with diet.

Yesterday, our pharmacist called and suggested he take a cholesterol-lowering medication to help prevent heart problems. She even offered to call his primary care physician to speak about it. He told her he had been on statins previously but discontinued them several years ago because of side effects. That ended the conversation.

Are you familiar with this type of phone call? It left me wondering if she were a conscientious pharmacist or an employee marketing drugs. I’d appreciate your thoughts since this has never happened before.

A. Guidelines push physicians to prescribe statins to nearly every man over the age of 63. They are also supposed to prescribe statins to people with Type 2 diabetes, even though such drugs may raise blood sugar.

Health care organizations are encouraging pharmacists to contact patients directly (Pharmacy, February 2022). That might explain the call.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, Fla., 32803, or email them via their website: Their newest book is “Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.”

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