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PERSONAL HEALTH : HEALTH WATCH : It's Here: Anti-Scream Cream

June 01, 1993| This weekly roundup of health news, compiled from wire-service reports, premieres today and will appear in View on Tuesdays


Ah, the piercing sound that accompanies a needle going into a child's arm. But help is here in the form of an anesthetic cream that numbs the skin.

Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in December, EMLA cream (an acronym for Eutectic Mixture of Local Anesthetics) is a highly concentrated mixture of the local anesthetics lidocaine and prilocaine. It is now available by prescription.

The white cream, which is used for intravenous shots, is applied primarily to children who face repeated injections or procedures that puncture the skin, such as the drawing of blood samples or spinal-fluid taps.

EMLA has not been used for vaccinations, which are intramuscular injections. But in Canada, where EMLA has been available over the counter since 1990, a study of adults has shown the cream does reduce vaccination pain. A Montreal study also suggests that the cream relieves the pain of circumcision in infants.

Hot Water Or Bust

The cold bath, for years considered the horizontal equivalent of the cold shower, is now being touted as a way to alleviate fatigue, according to London's Thrombosis Research Institute.

In a yearlong project, institute scientists monitored volunteers taking baths at prescribed times and temperatures, in different environments and for varying lengths of time.

Encouraged by the initial results, research director Vijay Kakkar and his staff are seeking 5,000 volunteers for the second phase of the project.

"There are many avenues down which the findings so far may lead us," Kakkar says. "People must realize that (this) is not a cure for everything. But it is a way to make our bodies perform better, improve blood circulation and stimulate the immunity systems."

Moreover, he adds, "It costs nothing. It can be practiced in the comfort of one's own home."

And the only people who might hate the idea are the folks at the gas company.

Healing Spurs

You've got spurs (on your heel bones) that are making your nerves go jingle, jangle, jingle.

What's the best treatment? Edward McFarland, an orthopedic surgeon at Johns Hopkins University, advises:

* Get into well-padded shoes.

* Ice the heel regularly.

* Take anti-inflammatory medications, such as aspirin or acetaminophen, as needed.

* Insert a soft heel cup or wedge in the shoe heel, but avoid hard plastic inserts with rigid edges.

Physical activity need not be stopped, but "pain should be the guide. Heel pain that persists should be checked by a doctor. Spurs generally take 12 to 18 months to heal.

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