DEAR DR. DONOHUE: What can I do to improve my chipping, splitting fingernails? I was getting a weekly manicure but stopped due to economic reasons. My nails had grown stronger. Now they’ve become a disaster again. Please help. I take vitamins and calcium. — M.H.
ANSWER: Aging makes nails brittle, thin and fragile for quite a few people. Dryness fosters brittleness. After every handwashing and before going to bed, coat your nails with a moisturizer. Petroleum jelly (the many Vaseline products) works well. When washing dishes or putting your hands in water, wear waterproof gloves. Don’t use nail polish remover often.
The B vitamin biotin toughens nails for some. You’ll need 2.5 mg daily.
Neither calcium nor gelatin strengthens nails.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Many years ago, when I was still a teen, I went skiing with my older brother. He was a much better skier than I, so we went our separate ways. Later, I saw a group huddling around one skier who looked a lot like my brother. It was my brother. He lost one of his gloves, and he had two frostbitten fingers. His only permanent damage was the loss of a fingertip. Ever since, I have been careful about dressing warm, often with two pair of gloves in cold weather. I don’t know what to do about frostbite. Will you run the basics by me? — S.S.
ANSWER: Frostbite happens when the temperature drops to 32 F (0 degrees C) or lower. Actually, the temperature has to be lower than 32, since the minerals in the fluids bathing the tissues lower their freezing point.
The places most susceptible are the fingers, hands, toes, feet, nose and ears. The first sign of trouble is pain. Then the skin turns quite pale. After that, numbness sets in. People might think that nothing is wrong at this stage, but numbness is a sign that freezing is imminent. The skin and involved tissues become hard and firm.
Ice crystals form in the spaces between cells. They pull water out of the cells and dehydrate them. The dehydration, decreased blood flow and ice crystals all work together to cause tissue damage. One of the most destructive factors is the lack of oxygen that comes from artery constriction to prevent heat loss from the rest of the body.
Fast rewarming is the treatment. It should not begin if you are in a place where there’s a chance of refreezing. Refreezing is a more destructive process than leaving things alone until you are in a place where the person can be kept warm.
The affected part should be immersed in a bath of hot water whose temperature is around 104 F (40 C). The water has to be kept warm by adding more hot water as the bath begins to cool. At no point should you rub the frozen part. If the affected area cannot be warmed in a water bath, then use hot compresses.
Rewarming is painful. Tylenol or a stronger medicine should be given. In 12 to 24 hours, blisters form. Do not break them. At this point, have a doctor examine the patient for definitive care.
Readers may write Dr. Donohue or request an order form of available health newsletters at P. O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853- 6475. ©2011 North America Synd.