Nose guard

Sinus infections in children, like ear infections, are often mistreated by doctors. The knee-jerk reaction is to reach for the prescription pad and dole out antibiotics. I have preached for 40 years that this is bad medicine; nobody listened.

A study in the journal Pediatrics validates what I have been saying for four decades: Antibiotics are not needed in most cases of upper respiratory infection ("snotty nose"). In fact, they may jeopardize the long-term health of your child or grandchild. You would think pediatricians could understand this. They fret about too many guns in the home, why don't they fret about too many antibiotics in the home? Antibiotics kill a lot more people than guns.

In a study of children diagnosed with acute sinusitis lasting at least 10 days, those given a placebo improved in the same amount of time (7 to 10 days) as children prescribed antibiotics.

If the snotty nose and cough are frequent occurrences, have the child tested for allergies. They are the most likely cause.

Afrin (oxymetazoline) is great for sleep and I recommend it, but only at bedtime. If your child can't breathe through his nose, he can't sleep properly. Breathing through the mouth doesn't allow for the inhaled air to be properly moisturized, which leads to dryness of the tonsilar area. This may cause inflammation and a consequent bacterial infection of the throat. Then antibiotics WILL be necessary.

A little codeine can be helpful at bedtime as well if the child also has an uncontrollable cough. Yes, I know this is just "masking the symptom" but that is what you want at this juncture: Rest is essential for healing. To prevent any possible stomach upset from the codeine, give the child a generous amount of food (a cup of ice cream, two slices of buttered toast, or a bowl of oatmeal) just before administering the medicine.

I was once asked in an interview what I considered to be the most important medical discovery of all time. I thought for a moment and replied: "Hot compresses." It's amazing what you can do with hot compresses. In dealing with a sinus infection, place the compress across the eyes, nose, and forehead. Repeat often, but try not to boil the skin.

If the child isn't showing signs of improvement, decreased fever, improved appetite and general sense of well-being, take him to a doctor and request a blood count. The count does not provide all the answers, but it will tell the doctor whether the infection is viral, bacterial, or allergic. It's that simple. Unfortunately, most doctors don't want to take the time. It's easier to "cover you with antibiotics," as the saying goes.

Overblown muscles and egos

I recently received a letter from a concerned reader about a report released by the French Food Safety Agency (AFSSA) regarding the safety of creatine. The AFSSA people claim there is "a potential carcinogenic risk" from creatine "particularly in the long term." While it is true, as they claim, that creatine is of little or no value to body builders (or "body preeners," as I prefer to call them), it is of tremendous value to the elderly.

Creatine has been used by neurologists for years in high doses for patients with neurodegenerative diseases like ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), Huntington's, and others. There have been no reports of increased risk of cancer in these patients.

Creatine supplementation, with moderate weight-lifting, adds bulk and strength to wasting muscles. It is therapeutic because it adds water back to dehydrated muscle cells. If you have muscle wasting, from illness or age (you lose 1 percent of body mass yearly after the age of 60), you need creatine supplementation. If you are not 60, or suffering from a degenerative disease, you don't need it and shouldn't take it.

Body builders are over hydrating muscle cells that were normal to begin with. This continual hyper hydration of cells is, in my view, detrimental in the long run. It may be the reason, or part of it, that muscle builders die young.

Bodybuilding is not a sport. It is an exercise in narcissism. These people are only maintaining the appearance of added muscle. It is only added water, which that will quickly disappear once the exercise/creatine combination is discontinued.