Excessive Use of Sports Cream Caused Death

A 17-year-old high school athlete has died from accidentally using too much over-the-counter muscle cream. The creams are commonly used by millions of Americans to relieve pain in sore muscles and joints.

Arielle Newman, a star of the Staten Island high school track team, died because her body absorbed high levels of methyl salicylate, an anti-inflammatory found in sports creams including Bengay and Icy Hot. Though commonly recommended for use by athletes, both exercise and heat can “accentuate absorption” of the drug, and chronic use is said to be more risky than one-time use.

This is a tragic example of how deadly over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, which are viewed as being safe and without risks, can be. They can be incredibly easy to overdose on, and have just as many dangerous side effects as prescription drugs.

Meanwhile, OTC drugs are not the answer for achy muscles and joints. Before considering any type of drug for pain -- OTC, prescription or otherwise -- please check out these seven anti-inflammatory alternatives.

I especially like Cetyl Myristoleate (CMO) cream. This oil, found in fish and dairy butter, acts as a joint lubricant and an anti-inflammatory.

New York Times June 10, 2007