Stun gun isn't a defibrillator

March 13, 2008|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon

Electric shock is used to start hearts that have stopped beating. In a pinch, would it be possible to start a heart using a stun gun?

Doctors use defibrillators to shock a heart out of a life-threatening rhythm. A stun gun is NO substitute for a defibrillator! We consulted two cardiologists who both said this would not work and is a very bad idea.

If you are concerned about needing a defibrillator "in a pinch," you can purchase an AED (automated external defibrillator). These home models detect life-threatening heart rhythms and use an electrical shock to restart the heart. They usually cost between $1,200 and $1,700. AEDs are sometimes found in airports and other public spaces.

I read in your column that naproxen can cause kidney damage. I want to reinforce that warning. I lost my kidneys as a result of taking prescription-strength naproxen in 1995. I took this anti-inflammatory drug off and on for three to six months.

I eventually needed a kidney transplant. I was lucky to get one in time. People must be informed that this kind of medicine can be dangerous. Many doctors prescribe these drugs without warning patients.

More than 20 million Americans use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) daily for arthritis and other pain problems.

This class of medicine includes OTC ibuprofen and naproxen, as well as a range of prescription drugs (celecoxib, diclofenac, etodolac, piroxicam, etc).

Side effects of such drugs include stomach upset, ulcers, high blood pressure, fluid retention, heart failure, skin rash, liver and kidney damage. Anyone with kidney impairment is far more likely to experience kidney toxicity on these drugs.

People in pain are caught in a dilemma. The most frequently prescribed pain medicine, NSAIDs, can cause a lot of damage. We offer a number of other options in our Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis.

My mom drinks Slim-Fast and takes levothyroxine for a thyroid condition. She wants to know if it is OK to take them both at once.

We suggest she take the levothyroxine at least half an hour, or better yet an hour, before she drinks her morning Slim-Fast. This diet drink contains minerals that could interfere with the absorption of levothyroxine.

I have suffered with GERD (acid reflux) for several years. One night when dealing with a bad session, I ate a banana. I have no idea why; I certainly didn't expect any result. Within 30 minutes, I was able to go back to sleep. Since then, whenever a bad episode of heartburn occurs, I eat one or two bites of banana, and the problem goes away. Doctors have no explanation for this. Nonetheless, it works every time, and it's not a drug. We almost always have a banana in the house.

We're not surprised that you have found bananas helpful. Doctors in India have prescribed bananas or banana powder to treat indigestion and stomach upset from aspirin. According to a study published long ago in The Lancet (March 10, 1990), banana powder relieved indigestion in 75 percent of patients.

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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