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On July 29, 2010, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) warned consumers about possible side effects of Evamist, a hormone spray that is often used to treat hot flashes in menopausal women. Interestingly, this warning didn’t apply to the women who use the drug; rather, it concerned their children and pets, who, through incidental exposure to the medicine, can develop symptoms that include: premature puberty and nipple swelling (among girls), breast enlargement (among boys), and vulvar swelling (among animals).

The active ingredient in Evamist is estradiol, an estrogen hormone that occurs naturally in the female body. The drug is applied directly to the skin. For greatest effect, women should spray it on the inside of their forearm, above the wrist and below the elbow.

Complications arise when children and pets come into contact with the area of application. For example, if a woman puts on Evamist and then hugs her child with her bare arms, trace amounts of the drug can be transferred to the child’s skin; the same is true for a woman who carries her child or cuddles with her pet. To avoid problems, the FDA suggests that women who use Evamist “not allow children to come into contact with the area of the arm where Evamist [is] sprayed.” Since we all know that it’s not really feasible to stop hugging your kids or playing with your animals, the FDA also concedes that women who use Evamist can alleviate most of the risk by simply wearing long-sleeved garments.

If contact occurs, there’s no need to panic! Just wash the child’s skin thoroughly with soap and water, and then keep an eye out for any signs of estrogen absorption. If the child begins to experience nipple or breast swelling or tenderness, contact his or her health professional.

For more information, view the FDA warning here.

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