BY DR PETER KADILE
Dr. Peter, my sister just got diagnosed with shingles. I am concerned because we are visiting her for the holidays and don’t want to catch it. What should I do?
Susan, a person does not get shingles (Herpes Zoster) when they come in contact with someone who has it. When someone has gotten over the chicken pox, that virus goes into “hibernation” and may flare up later in life. This flare up will follow the pathway of a nerve and may become very painful. Unless you haven’t had the chickenpox yet, there is a chance you may get the chickenpox if you come into contact with a person with shingles. You don’t get shingles from someone who has it.
Dear Dr. Kadile, I know antibiotics do not work for the common cold, but what about when my mucus turns green?
Frank, La Quinta
Frank, this subject regarding the color of one’s mucus or phlegm determining the need for antibiotics is another one of the most frustrating medical myths primary care physicians encounter in their practices. Since we are now into cold and flu season, I deal with this type of question quite frequently in my own practice.
When you have cold symptoms and blow your nose or cough up phlegm that is green, this does not mean you have a bacterial infection which would need antibiotics. The green color comes from enzymes released by your white blood cells used to fight off the infection. When your sinuses are clogged during a cold, the mucus in the sinuses will stagnate and appear green when you sneeze or blow your nose.
The bottom line is that green mucus or phlegm does not mean you need antibiotics.
Dr. Kadile, I am trying everything to prevent myself from getting sick this season. Is using hand sanitizer as good as washing my hands?
Jennifer, Cathedral City
Hand sanitizers are generally made up of alcohol, glycerin, water and maybe some fragrance added. The alcohol is the main germ fighter. A good hand sanitizer should have an alcohol concentration of at least 60 percent. Hand sanitizer is beneficial if hand washing is unavailable, but it is not as good. Using a hand sanitizer is good in addition to hand washing. Really, the best way to clean your hands is with soap and water. Washing gets rid of most germs and breaks up oils and removes dirt, which can hide bacteria and germs. Hand sanitizer simply works on the surface of the skin, whereas hand washing will get the water and soap into the small cracks and crevices of the skin. Hand washing is better than using ahand sanitizer.
Dear Dr. Kadile, is antibacterial soap better than regular soap?
Glen, Palm Desert
Glen, research has shown that plain soaps are just as effective as antibacterial soaps in reducing bacteria related illnesses. As I’ve said in previous issues of CV Weekly, most upper respiratory infections are caused by viruses, thus antibacterial soap wouldn’t help in preventing colds and flu. Proper and thorough hand washing is the key, so make sure you wash your hands for at least 20-30 seconds.