Avoid dehydration, try support hose to avoid blood clots from sitting

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY

July 28, 2002|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon,Special to the Sun; King Features Syndicate

Q. I am a private investigator. Believe me when I tell you the job is not as glamorous as most people think. I spend hours sitting in a car, watching and waiting.

I have read that people who sit through long airplane flights can develop blood clots in their legs. Could this happen to me, and what can I do to prevent it? I take a baby aspirin to thin my blood, but I don't know if that will work.

A. When a blood clot forms in a large vein in the legs it is called deep vein thrombosis (DVT). This can be dangerous, because the clot could break loose and lodge in the lung, causing a pulmonary embolism. Research has shown that DVT might affect as many as 10 percent of passengers on flights longer than five hours.

Anyone who sits for a long time is vulnerable. Experts recommend graduated compression hosiery to prevent blood clots from forming. Avoiding dehydration and walking when possible are also important.

Aspirin prevents blood clots responsible for heart attacks and strokes, but might be less helpful against DVT. Check with your doctor to see if your risk factors warrant daily aspirin, and invest in several pairs of medical support hose for your long vigils.

Q. My sister has always suffered from painful menstrual cramps. Her doctor started her on a drug called Sarafem a couple of years ago to help with the cramps and irritability. But she is still suffering with headaches, stomach pain and cramps.

Her doctor tells her to keep taking the medicine, but she is getting fed up. What is Sarafem, and is there an herbal alternative?

A. Sarafem is a familiar drug by a new name. It is fluoxetine, which means it is the same as Prozac.

Studies have shown that this drug can counteract the symptoms of premenstrual dysphoric disorder, a psychiatric diagnosis for severe premenstrual syndrome. It is unlikely to relieve menstrual cramps.

Some of your sister's symptoms might be side effects of Sarafem. Women who take this drug might experience headaches, nausea or other digestive-tract upset.

Chaste tree berry extract (Vitex) has been found helpful for PMS. So has Saint-John's-wort, which reduced symptoms by 50 percent in one clinical study. It should not be combined with Sarafem, however.

For cramps, fatty acids like those in borage oil or even fish oil might be helpful. Ibuprofen has also been found beneficial.

Q. Is it true that Tylenol and acetaminophen are identical in their effects? Does that mean the dosages should be the same, milligram for milligram?

A. Yes. Acetaminophen is the active ingredient in Tylenol, and at the same milligram dose it should deliver equivalent pain relief.

Q. I'm using Nizoral shampoo for an itchy, flaky scalp and for dry, flaking skin around my nose and jaw. Am I on track?

A. Nizoral is for seborrheic dermatitis, which can cause bad dandruff or flaking facial skin. If that's what you have, your treatment should work. Your doctor can also prescribe Nizoral cream for the face.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019, or e-mail them from their Web site, www.peoplespharmacy.org.

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