Originally created 12/13/01

Capsules



Dry-skin relief

Though it's well understood that sunscreen is paramount during summer months, Old Man Winter can burn you, too. However, dry, itchy skin needn't become a regular feature of the season.

Dr. Rand Werbitt, a dermatologist from Stamford, Conn., says the easiest thing people can do to soothe their skin in the months ahead is to switch to a mild soap, especially if they use a deodorant soap. A teaspoon of light bath oil, applied within two minutes of a shower, also will lock in moisture. And definitely don't linger in the shower - hot showers remove the skin's oils and strip it of its moisture-conserving outer layer. It's a simple matter of the environment; in the summer you can get away with longer showers because the humidity is generally higher.

Bioterrorism poll

It's a good time to pause and reflect on what we have learned about anthrax and bioterrorism, and what we still need to know.

Both are considerable.

A Harvard School of Public Health survey of 1,015 adults released Nov. 8 indicated that most Americans are not panicking about their risk of getting anthrax or smallpox. About three-quarters surveyed said it is far more likely that they or someone in their family will get the flu than anthrax or smallpox. That's a testament to public health officials and doctors who kept us all from wearing gas masks to bed and burying bottles of Cipro in the back yard.

Most surveyed also believe they would survive - with appropriate medical treatment - either skin or inhaled anthrax. That's a testament to good doctors and good antibiotics. Only a few months ago, inhaled anthrax was considered close to 100 percent fatal. Yet of 11 inhaled anthrax cases we've seen so far, six have recovered.

Pregnancy pros

"Just relax, dear."

The words are enough to incite even the mildest woman struggling with infertility into a fire-spitting rage.

But all those other purveyors of unsolicited childbearing advice may be onto something.

A growing body of scientific evidence is beginning to support the notion that stress may play a role in the quest for a baby.

The newest study, published in October, found that women undergoing in-vitro fertilization who had higher levels of stress produced fewer eggs and so had fewer embryos to be transferred into their wombs than their more-relaxed counterparts.

Conversely, women undergoing IVF who were the most optimistic about their chances of having a baby produced more eggs and had more usable embryos.

The finding surprised lead researcher Hillary Klonoff-Cohen, who expected to find that a woman's anxiety about the procedure would be more important than her overall background stress level.

"Procedural stress is important, but I thought it would play more of a role," said Dr. Klonoff-Cohen, an associate professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at the University of California at San Diego. "It turned out that baseline stress was more important."