DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Every summer, I go camping and fishing with three friends. We’ve been doing it for 10 years. I enjoy it, but mosquito bites make it hellish. I’m a mosquito magnet. My friends rarely are bitten, but I am covered with bites. What can I do about it? Someone suggested taking the vitamin thiamine. Does it work? And what works best to stop the itching that drives me crazy? – R.K.
ANSWER: Someone always suggests thiamine to prevent mosquito bites. I haven’t seen any proof that it works.
It’s the female mosquito that bites. She needs blood for the development of her eggs. It’s a survival thing, so don’t be too hard on her.
Some people do attract mosquitoes. Researchers have many theories why this is so. It might be that the mosquito magnets have more cholesterol, uric acid or lactic acid on their skin. Or they might produce more carbon dioxide, which attracts mosquitoes.
Repellents are the answer for you. Those with DEET are very good. DEET can eat through fishing lines, so beware. It can also damage plastics, rayon, spandex, leather and some paints and varnishes. Another good repellent is picardin, found in Cutter Advanced.
Permethrin kills mosquitoes on contact. It’s put on clothes. It doesn’t harm skin if it gets on it, but skin breaks it down and it loses its effectiveness. You can doubly protect yourself by using a skin repellent and also using permethrin on your clothes.
The antihistamine Zyrtec quells mosquito-bite itching quite well. It’s a prescription drug.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My ankles are covered with spider veins. I hate them. How did I get them, and how can I get rid of them? They will ruin my summer. I don’t like people staring at my ankles. They disgust others as much as they disgust me. – E.D.
ANSWER: Spider veins are visibly dilated small veins. They pop up on the lower legs and ankles because gravity keeps blood pooled in the lower legs. The pooled blood stretches these veins, just as it does in varicose veins. Genes also have a role, as they do in just about everything. Sunlight contributes to their formation. Pregnancy and standing in one place are other factors that cause them.
Injecting those veins with a solution that irritates their lining and causes the lining to collapse and stick together gets rid of them. Some doctors use lasers for the same purpose.
I can tell you for a fact that I haven’t heard a single soul complain about your ankles.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: After 18 holes of golf, the tendons on the back of my heels hurt. What should I do? – C.K.
ANSWER: The likely cause is inflammation of the Achilles tendon, the tendon of the calf muscle. It attaches to the heel. Don’t play golf for two weeks. Take Aleve if there’s no reason for you not to use it. Put warm compresses on it for 15 minutes three times a day. Try heel inserts, obtainable in every drugstore. When you start playing again, ice the tendon for 10 to 15 minutes after you’re through playing.
Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL32853-6475.
©2008 North America Synd.