I have underarm odor. I wash daily, use deodorant and change my shirts daily. I use mostly cotton shirts and undershirts. I launder my shirts with soap mixed with bicarbonate sodium, baking soda ,to eliminate odor. In spite of all this, deodorants seem to work for few hours and then fade away. What other solutions do you have for this problem, whether it’s what to use for the underarm or what to wash the clothes with? Thanks.

Body odor comes mainly from bacteria that grow in the moist areas, like axillae, or armpits. Keeping them dry and minimizing bacteria are then the ways to minimize body odor.

Antiperspirant, rather than deodorant, is effective at keeping the axillae dryer. Applying at nighttime after shower or bath may be more effective. Occasional use of a topical antibiotic to the axillae can keep bacteria growth down, as well.

Diet can have a role, too. Sulfur-containing foods like garlic, along with onions and many curries, can cause a strong odor.

As far as washing clothes, most detergents do a very good job of removing the odor-causing bacteria.

I went in for an annual examination with my primary-care doctor, and she took my blood tests in the laboratory. She told me that I have high potassium, 5.5, and had me retake it. I did, and the test came back with a much lower level of 4.3. What could have caused the level to go up so high? Was this due to eating a lot of avocado and yogurt on a daily basis? I was eating a whole avocado in the a.m. for breakfast and a yogurt with apple and peach. Should I be seeing a specialist to recheck it? Please describe potassium and its job and advise what I should do.

Avocados and yogurt are high-potassium foods, and peaches and apples are medium-potassium foods. However, most people can take in high amounts of potassium without worry, since the kidney is very good at getting rid of potassium if the body doesn’t need it.

I more often see low potassium levels, from poor intake or from medications, such as diuretics, which can cause the body to lose potassium. However, some people with kidney disease — especially severe kidney disease — need to carefully watch and limit oral potassium intake.

By far the biggest reason for a potassium blood test to come out abnormally high relates to the lab itself. Samples that sit around a long time or that are shaken will have broken blood cells, which release high levels of potassium into the serum, causing false elevations in the lab.

If you didn’t change your diet between the two tests, there is no reason to worry at all. Your primary doctor is the right person to see.

Does sunlight make chickenpox blisters appear more quickly?

I have heard that, too, but can’t find any evidence that it’s true. The rash of chickenpox certainly will come, even in darkness.

Sunlight can worsen scarring from chickenpox, and the affected skin is more susceptible to burning, so those with chickenpox rash should be kept out of the sun.

Chickenpox is also very contagious; restrict contact with anyone who hasn’t had it or the vaccine.

Dr. Keith Roach regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but will incorporate them in the column whenever possible. Readers may email questions to ToYourGoodHealth@med.cornell.edu. © 2019 North America Synd., Inc.

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