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Concern over stethoscopes

Q. My doctor always washes his hands before an exam, but he never seems to wipe down his stethoscope. This makes me nervous, but perhaps I am being silly. Should I ask about the stethoscope next time?

A. Stethoscopes can carry all sorts of nasty bacteria (Canadian Journal of Emergency Medicine, July 2011). We have always wondered why doctors who are scrupulous about washing their hands seem less concerned about cleaning their stethoscopes. Since a stethoscope goes from patient to patient and may hang around a doctor's or nurse's neck, your concern seems reasonable.

We recently learned about a clever new device called CleanStethoscope (Cleanint.com) that could make this process safer. After every exam, the provider slides the bell of the stethoscope into a holder that attaches magnetically to the shirt or white coat. The sponge insert is moistened with a disinfectant to kill germs and is replaced daily.

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Q. I have been seeing a dermatologist for years for my rosacea. Nothing really helps much, and many things irritate my skin.

I saw my neurologist for headaches, and he asked what I was doing for my face. I told him I'd tried everything, but was currently using Finacea. He suggested using Selsun Blue dandruff shampoo on my face for about five minutes while taking a shower.

It took three days before I could see a difference, but for the first time in eight years, the redness is finally going away! The shampoo dries my skin, so I moisturize after the shower. My face looks better than it ever has.

A. Rosacea causes redness of the cheeks, nose and forehead. Thanks for sharing your story. Others have reported that topical application of Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) or milk of magnesia (magnesium hydroxide) also can be helpful for this skin condition.

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Q. I have very dry eyes that are red and sore. My doctor said to use artificial tears, but they have not made much improvement. Any suggestions?

A. Eye doctors we have consulted recommend Systane BALANCE and Soothe XP. These formulations are designed to protect the surface of the eye and replenish the tear film lipid layer (Clinical Ophthalmology online, June 10, 2011).