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Originally published May 22, 2010 at 7:00 PM | Page modified May 22, 2010 at 9:01 PM

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The People's Pharmacy

People's Pharmacy | Reader uses mouthwash to kill ticks

People's Pharmacy responds to readers' letters about using mouthwash to kill ticks; lubrication for vaginal dryness; and warfarin and cranberry juice.

Syndicated columnists

Q: Last summer, I learned that antiseptic mouth rinse kills ticks immediately. When I found a tick, I used to remove it and put it into rubbing alcohol, where it died after a minute or so. Once I had no alcohol, but my mouthwash was handy. I wet some toilet paper with it, laid it on the tick for a few seconds, and shazam! The tick released its nasty grip. I wiped it away with the paper.

Be sure the active ingredients match those of Listerine blue or yellow. If you put a live tick into this solution, it dies in a couple of seconds.

A: Dermatologists advise using tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull steadily (no jerking or twisting) until it lets go. Putting alcohol or petroleum jelly on the tick is not recommended.

A tick should not be handled with bare fingers, to prevent picking up the germs it might carry. Dropping it into rubbing alcohol or a mouthwash like Listerine that contains alcohol should kill it quickly. If you don't have anything like that available, you can entomb the tick in transparent adhesive tape and dispose of it.

Q: What do you recommend as a sexual lubricant for intercourse? I am 68 years young but have been celibate for more than 30 years. I have met someone very special, and it may eventually evolve into a sexual relationship.

I have heard that older women have a problem with vaginal dryness that interferes with intercourse.

A: Many postmenopausal women find intercourse more comfortable with lubrication. We often recommend Sylk because it is slippery and water-based, so it won't destroy latex. At 68, you don't need to worry about contraception, of course, but you are still vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections. Condoms offer some protection.

Q: Recently, I had to increase my dose of warfarin by 1 mg. The label said to avoid cranberry juice, but I've not seen this on previous warfarin prescriptions. I have atrial fibrillation.

A: Warfarin (Coumadin) is a blood thinner that prevents blood clots that may lead to a stroke. The dose is critical, as too little medicine may permit a blood clot to form, while too much could lead to hemorrhaging.

Many foods and drugs interact with warfarin. Several years ago, there was a warning that cranberry juice might be among them. Anecdotal reports suggested that cranberry juice might increase the effectiveness of warfarin and cause bleeding.

A review in the American Journal of Medicine (May 2010) analyzed data from randomized clinical trials and concluded that cranberry juice does not pose a threat when consumed in moderation. Cranberry capsules or concentrate may be another matter. Periodic monitoring is advised for anyone on warfarin.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them c/o King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., 15th floor, New York, NY 10019, or via their website: www.peoplespharmacy.org

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