People's Pharmacy

People's Pharmacy

September 08, 2006|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon,

I was wondering whether you could answer a few questions for me about coffee and asthma. I've tried coffee, and it certainly works for my asthma! Does it have to be regular coffee, or can it be decaf? Should the coffee be brewed, or can it be instant?

Physicians have known about the beneficial effect of coffee for treating asthma since at least 1859 (Edinburgh Medical Journal). Research has shown that caffeine can open airways and improve asthma symptoms (New England Journal of Medicine, March 22, 1984). The dose is about three cups of strong coffee for an average adult.

Caffeine is related to theophylline, an old-fashioned asthma drug. As a result, decaf coffee will not work. Instant coffee contains less caffeine than brewed coffee, so a person might need a few more cups of instant.

You should not rely on caffeine to control asthma symptoms. Prescribed medication offers more reliable relief.

Often my head will start perspiring excessively. It will drip down my neck and face. Someone once even asked if I had been swimming.

This sweating is so embarrassing, I am reluctant to go out socially. Please help. I take Theo-24 and Serevent for a breathing problem and Lexapro as an antidepressant.

It is possible that Lexapro is contributing to excessive sweating. Some of the newer antidepressant medications can cause this reaction. But do not stop taking this medicine suddenly - it might trigger unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

Let your doctor know how much this side effect is bothering you. There might be an alternative that does not cause this response.

Can my high blood pressure be treated without drugs? I have been on several drugs that lower it, but I have had side effects with every drug I have tried.

I eat a healthy, low-sodium diet, and I am not overweight. High blood pressure does not run in my family. Might the Claritin I take for allergies be causing it?

We don't know whether you will be able to control your blood pressure without medication, but we can suggest several steps you might take. Regular exercise, a diet rich in potassium, magnesium and fiber, and stress management might help get your blood pressure down.

Claritin alone is unlikely to raise blood pressure. This might be a side effect of Claritin-D, however. The decongestant can contribute to hypertension.

We have been using Mennen's green Speed Stick deodorant for mosquito bites for 21 years. Our granddaughter's pediatrician recommended it when she was a baby.

She and I are very susceptible to mosquito bites. Applied soon after a bite and repeated for up to three days, the deodorant gets rid of the itch and reduces the swelling.

We cannot imagine how this deodorant relieves itching from mosquito bites. It has no magic ingredients. Perhaps someone else will try it and let us know whether it works for them, too.

I read about the man who was looking for relief for leg cramps. My mother also had awful leg cramps.

She tried the herb valerian, and it completely relieved her leg cramps, allowing her to sleep.

I have also used valerian for relaxation, and it works very well. I suggest the capsules rather than valerian tea, because the smell is strong.

Valerian has been used for centuries to help people relax and get to sleep. People have taken it for stomach cramps and menstrual distress, and it is promoted for easing muscle cramps.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of this newspaper or e-mail them via their Web site:

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