Sweeping cat allergies under rug

People's Pharmacy

September 13, 2007|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon

My sister is highly allergic to cats. I have an indoor cat, so when my sister comes to visit she is miserable. I vacuum before and during her visit, but she still suffers.

Is there anything she could take before she comes that would help make her stay more enjoyable? How can I make it more comfortable for us all?

This sounds counterintuitive, but vacuuming during your sister's visit might actually make her symptoms worse. Some vacuum cleaners spew small particles into the air and make the environment more allergenic.

The next time you shop for a vacuum cleaner, consult Consumer Reports (October 2007). The magazine's experts chose the following upright machines as good values for picking up tiny allergy-causing particles: Kenmore (Sears) Progressive 35922, Eureka Boss Smart Vac Ultra 4870 and Hoover Tempo Widepath U5140-900. In canister-style vacuums, they chose Kenmore Progressive 27514.

An over-the-counter allergy nasal spray that can be helpful is NasalCrom. If your sister starts using it a few days before her visit, it might prevent some of the symptoms that make her miserable.

I am taking Chantix to quit smoking. I have had no urge to smoke, but I am seriously depressed.

In the past, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I am concerned that my recent bout of severe depression may be a result of taking Chantix. Has this topic been researched? I want to stop smoking, but I don't want to be this depressed. I am still seeing a therapist. Should I tell him about this?

Chantix is a relatively new oral prescription medication to help people stop smoking. It works in a completely different way from nicotine-replacement gum, lozenges and patches.

In clinical studies, Chantix was somewhat more effective than another oral medication, Zyban (bupropion SR), in helping people stay off cigarettes.

The most common side effects of Chantix are nausea, headache, sleep problems and strange dreams. Although depression is not listed as a common side effect, it was frequently reported among people who participated in the clinical trials.

Please contact your therapist about your depression. Your doctor may consider whether Zyban, which has antidepressant effects, might be more appropriate for you.

A friend of mine traveled in Costa Rica, and now doctors think she has something called "jardia." What can be done to cure it?

Giardia lamblia is a single-celled intestinal parasite that is a common hazard for travelers. Drinking untreated water from ponds, lakes, rivers or streams in the U.S. can also cause infection.

Giardia may lead to digestive distress, including diarrhea, nausea, cramps and flatulence. Doctors usually treat the infection with a prescription antimicrobial drug called metronidazole or a similar medicine called tinidazole. People taking such drugs must avoid alcohol during the five days of treatment for Giardia. Pregnant women should not take either medication.

My mother suffers a lot with cramps, not only in her legs. She had been on quinine, but now her doctors won't prescribe it, and she has nothing to help with her daily pain.

The doctors don't really seem to know what to do to help her with this, and she is willing to try anything. What do you recommend?

Her doctors should review her medications to determine if any of her drugs may be contributing to her cramps. Some people report this problem is more common when they take cholesterol-lowering medicines or certain asthma drugs.

We often encourage people to get plenty of potassium and magnesium. One remedy for muscle cramps is a spoonful of yellow mustard. Another is a bar of soap placed under the bottom sheet.

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: PeoplesPharmacy.com.

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