Antibiotics are a great thing. They are physicians’, pharmacists’ and patients’ best friend—that is, until they are overused. It’s then that they create “super bugs,” bacteria that become drug resistant and more difficult to treat. Unfortunately, too often patients head to the doctor for relatively minor ailments, like the common cold, and are automatically given antibiotics. Some patients are even upset if they leave the doctor’s office without getting that prescription.

Many common ailments will gradually resolve on their own with rest and over the counter products. Overprescribing antibiotics, however, results in the development of bacteria that don’t respond to antibiotics that may have worked in the past.

Consequently, patients become ill with one of these “super bugs” that are much harder to treat, sometimes with disastrous results. So, the next time your doctor does not recommend an antibiotic, relax. He may be saving you quite a bit of hardship in the long run.

Q: My husband has recurrent kidney stones. I think it’s because he has too much calcium. Should he restrict the amount of calcium he gets from things like milk and cheese?

A: You’re right in that most kidney stones are made of calcium salts. So, many patients think that reducing calcium intake will help prevent getting more kidney stones. Experts have been debating this for years.  It turns out that low calcium diets can actually increase the risk for calcium oxalate kidney stones by increasing the urinary excretion of oxalate.  So experts concluded that increased oxalate in the urine is more likely to cause stones than increased calcium. Now recent evidence suggests that calcium is equally guilty in the formation of stones.

This doesn’t mean your husband should decrease his calcium. We all need about 1000 mg of calcium a day. Patients at risk of osteoporosis need even more. But your husband could start taking calcium citrate, which helps decrease stone formation.

Here are some other things your husband can do. For one, he needs to drink two to three liters of water a day and cut down on salt, which increases urinary calcium. And, he should stay away from foods high in oxalate, like spinach, beets, cranberries, chocolate and nuts.

Also, he should watch his weight. Weight gain and obesity increase the risk of kidney stones.

Q: I’m looking for a natural way to ward off mosquitoes. I heard that taking vitamin B every day can help.

A: I’ve heard that as well. The theory is that mosquitoes don’t like the smell of people who take vitamin B. It’s wrong.

Research shows vitamin B is not effective as a repellant. Oh yeah: neither are brewer’s yeast, garlic, bananas, onions and other home remedies. If you want to avoid mosquitoes and other biting insects, get insect repellants that contain DEET, such as OFF, Cutter, Bull Frog and Repel. And if you really want to keep them off, get some 100 percent DEET. That will definitely keep them away. If you want a “natural” or plant-based repellent, try oil of lemon eucalyptus products. It’s not as effective as DEET, but it works.

Q: My boyfriend wants me to slow down on chocolate. But I keep telling him that chocolate is good for your heart. He doesn’t believe me, though.

A: There is some truth to what you say, but you’re probably not eating the right chocolate. Eating chocolate daily seems to lower blood pressure, reduce LDL cholesterol and improve insulin sensitivity. But those benefits are only seen with pure cocoa and dark chocolate, which taste very bitter due to their high content of flavanols. That’s not the chocolate we get in most stores. Consumer chocolate has been mixed and mashed until all of those healthy benefits have been pretty much flushed out. You may want to continue eating chocolate, but you’re going to have to come up with a new rationale for your boyfriend.

Do you have questions about your medication, concerns about a friend’s or relative’s prescription or just want to keep up with the latest developments. In that case, ask syndicated columnist Dr. Daphne Bernard, a doctor of pharmacy and a registered pharmacist in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. She is assistant dean and associate professor at the Howard University School of Pharmacy and a member of numerous boards and associations, including the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, the District of Columbia Board of Pharmacy, the Nonprescription Medicines Academy, Rho Chi Honor Society, American Pharmacists Association and the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, Please email her at


Dr. Daphne Bernard

Special to the AFRO