Personal Protection for You and Your Clients
Marilyn Pratt, MD
Mucous-producing membranes are strategically located throughout the human body. Many are hidden, but others are in areas that communicate with nature’s elements; like air, water, earth and fire (smoke).
These membranes produce a natural wetting agent (mucous) that acts to overcome the effects created by both internal chemical and hormonal changes and external effects of nature’s elements. All of these membranes are part of our body’s natural defense – critical to our well-being. “Drying out” or “washing out” of mucous is an abnormal condition affecting health and well being - often requiring medical attention to eyes, nose, throat, bronchi, vagina etc. All of these areas have mucous membranes that will dry if subjected to repeated particles, chemicals or irritants. Examples of drying agents are paint fumes, smoke, dust particles, and chemically laden air or water. The dryness of mucous membranes may also be caused by diet and, very often, lack of hydration. Dehydration of the body and the successive drying of mucous membranes can lead to inflammation, infections and allergic reactions.
Vaginal dryness is a special case in point. This type of dryness is due to the loss of superficial squamous cells, which produce mucous for the protection of delicate vaginal cells. Untreated dryness eventually makes it uncomfortable to walk or sit, as tissues pull against other dry and sticky tissues. (We can relate to this by thinking about a time our nostrils stuck shut temporarily. Patients just taken off ventilators may experience this too.) Without proper external or internal lubrication this condition can progress to bleeding or ulceration. Further neglect can bring more severe conditions. Vaginal walls may grow together and perforations may occur. All of these consequences can be prevented by proper lubrication.
Vaginal dryness is a medical condition often requiring a doctor’s attention because any situation that prevents the production of normal mucous in the vagina can be harmful. Diabetes, stress, high blood pressure, fatigue, tight clothing and too much water entering the vagina from douching too often, sitting in Jacuzzis, or working in warm or poorly chlorinated pools for prolonged periods will often disturb the normalization of the mucous-producing cells. This type of overexposure can cause inflammation and/or infections (Smith & Columbia).
Preventing vaginal wall trauma due to pool chemicals or sanitizers requires an oil-based lubricant to be used externally and/or internally. This will prevent most of the mucous from being washed away and protect against prolonged chemical exposure. Vaginal dryness is a medical problem affecting women of all ages. Nursing mothers, women suffering from stress and fatigue, those experiencing hormonal loss or imbalance – even women on the pill - are candidates for a vaginal lubricant.
Those who have experienced vaginal dryness know the negative impact it can have. However, they probably don't know that practically every lubricant on the market includes a chemical ingredient that can create a vaginal problem: Glycerin*. Glycerin carries a medical hazard sign in the U.S. Chemical Catalog utilized in the Pharmaceutical, Medical and Cosmetic industries. Glycerin can be a source of burning and inflammation for women because glycerin is a byproduct of soap.
Glycerin is an alcohol and therefore absorbs water. It can be dehydrating and irritating to exposed skin in high concentrations (Goodman). Concentrated solutions slowly promote bacterial growth. The irritant action makes it an excellent product for suppositories to encourage evacuation of the bowel. It promotes peristalsis through local irritation of the mucous membrane of the rectum (Chase).
Glycerin is a clear, colorless, syrupy, sweet tasting liquid. The first polyhyrdric alcohol can yield aldose and ketsose – sugars (Chase). Women with diabetes and women with a history of yeast infections (more common in women on birth control pills, antibiotics or steroids) need to be informed about this and refrain from using glycerin products (Spodnik). Also eliminate use of Vaseline or cold cream as they can irritate the tissue or block secretions (Melpomene).
Finally, glycerin is soluble in water and washes away in the pool rather than adhering to the tissue it was applied to.
As more and more aquatic therapists experienced some type of vaginitis the Aquatic Therapy & Rehab Institute (ATRI) decided to experiment with several products. They looked for products that used natural ingredients, had been on the market awhile, and that eliminated the recurrence of vaginitis.
A lubricant tested by aquatic therapists who subscribe to the ATRI Bulletin Board, Crème de la Femme, met these conditions:
· It contains no glycerin.
· It is a true lubricant, not just a moisturizer.
· It is free of alcohol, sugars and dyes.
· Its main ingredient is mineral oil, which carries no medical hazard sign.
· Paraffin, ceresin and petrolatum are its lesser ingredients.
· All of these are formulated inside the earth from the oldest of nature’s botanicals - those that have, over billions of years, produced oil.
· No animals have been used in testing the product.
· It is approved by the FDA as a non-prescription drug.
This fluid-film lubricant, that will not irritate, run, or dry out, lubricates naturally and effectively. It is self-cleansing. It offers added protection, as it will not culture yeast or fungus, which are contaminants often found in pools and Jacuzzis. Best of all, it is not water-soluble so it will not wash off in the pool.
Adding a vaginal tampon can also help. It is recommended that women do not use group hot tubs unless they apply the vaginal crème to a tampon and insert it into the vagina first. This offers women the best protection. Removal of the tampon is recommended immediately after pool exposure.
Therapists working in warm water for extended periods should apply (or insert) the lubricant immediately prior to immersion. It may be necessary to reintroduce the lubricant after four hours of exposure (much like skin block lotions are to be reapplied to give the most protection from day-long exposure to the sun). The ATRI testing showed that external use seemed fine for one to two hours of exposure. For longer exposure internal use is suggested.
Protect yourself and your clients. Mucous membranes play a vital part in our immune system and overall health.
*Definitions of Glycerin:
Crème de la Femme can be ordered through Adolph Kiefer and Associates 800-323-4071 or at www.kiefer.com - click “Shop,” the “Aquatic Therapy and Fitness,” then “Ruth Sova recommends.”
Editor’s Note: The ATRI test group found no reactions or precautions but did find an unusual use for the lubricant. Two therapists applied it to their feet prior to putting on their pool shoes or sandals and entering the pool. The lubricant improved a cracking and dry foot problem they were experiencing!
Dr. Marilyn Pratt is a pioneer in women’s
health. In 1975, already in practice as
a GP for over 20 years, Dr. Pratt opened the first complete women’s health
center in the
She professes the importance of patient education and emphasizes holistic health using the mind and body to understand the many psychological and emotional problems that can lead to illness.
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Glanze, W., Anderson, K., and Anderson, L., eds. The Signet/Mosby Medical Encyclopedia. New
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The Melpomene Institute. The Bodywise Woman.
Smith, S.F. and Smith, C.M.. Personal Health Choices.
Spodnik, J.P. and Cogan, D.P. The 35-plus Good Health Guide for women: The Prime
Life Program for Women over 35.