Magazine article Drug Topics

Pharmacist's Formula for Balm Finds New Uses

Magazine article Drug Topics

Pharmacist's Formula for Balm Finds New Uses

Article excerpt

Bag Balm. The name isn't sexy, the green can it comes in hasn't changed much since 1899, and the primary indication is congestion of the cow udder due to calving, high feeding, bruising, or chilling. With its 0.3% 8-hydroxyquinoline sulfate in a petrolatum and lanolin base, this yellowish, vaguely medicinal-smelling ointment is a quiet favorite from neonatal wards to nursing homes around the country.

"Farmers and their families have been using it since time out of mind," said Jim Myres, oncology clinic pharmacist at The Christ Hospital in Cincinnati. "It's surprising how many pharmacists married to nurses use this stuff, too."

So do oncology patients, who swear by Bag Balm to soothe skin burned by radiation therapy. Nurses use the same pasty goo to soothe hands chapped from frequent washing and other infectioncontrol measures. Nursing homes use it to soothe incipient bed sores. Mothers use it to quell diaper rash and chapped skin. "I wouldn't hesitate to tell patients about Bag Balm. It works. It's stood the test of time, though some people object to the medicinal smell," Myres said.

The product is designed to be massaged into the bare skin of dairy cow udders. The udder skin often becomes dry and chapped due to frequent washing, disinfecting, cold weather, and dry air, explained Bill Cisco, a dairy epidemiologist for the University of California at Davis Veterinary Medicine Teaching & Research Center. "Those areas get chapped and are more susceptible to infection," he explained. "Bag Balm is neither marketed nor labeled for human use, but people have used this stuff on their hands on dairy farms for a century. …

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