Cold keys or butter knife can help stop nosebleed

People's pharmacy

May 01, 2008|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon

When I was a kid, I would get very bad nosebleeds. If nothing else worked, my mother would get out her keys and drop them down the back of my neck. I wish I knew why it worked so well.

We have heard from many people who have had success stopping nosebleeds with keys or a cold butter knife against the back of the neck. We don't know why this trick works, but one reader offered the following from his experience as a medic doing water rescue: "The keys work because of the mammalian dive reflex. Cold hits the nerves in the neck, causing the blood vessels to constrict. You might notice your pulse slowing, too.

"The dive reflex is why cold-water drowning victims are not usually pronounced dead until they are `warm and dead.' Cold water only in the face/head area shunts blood to the organs and away from the skin and slows the metabolism for survival. The vital signs are often too weak to detect." This hypothesis sounds plausible to us. We can't offer a better one.

I have severe restless leg syndrome (RLS), but it has been controlled with diazepam. Recently, the doctor diagnosed me with an underactive thyroid condition and prescribed levothyroxine. It really made my RLS worse.

He suggested that I stop the thyroid medicine for three weeks to see what happens. It took a full week to get my RLS back under control. I am worried now about him insisting I take levothyroxine for my thyroid condition. Is there anything else I can take instead? I absolutely cannot live with my severe RLS. It affects my whole body, not just my legs, and even affects me mentally.

We discovered a case report in medical literature (Movement Disorders, November 2004) that parallels your experience. The person was deficient in iron, and thyroid supplementation made the creepy-crawly sensations and limb movements worse.

Perhaps your doctor can check your iron levels to see if you need a supplement. Untreated hypothyroidism is associated with a number of uncomfortable symptoms, including mental sluggishness, depression or confusion. It can cause high cholesterol, constipation, fatigue, swollen hands or feet and weakness, among other problems.

After a cruise, I was upset to find that solid ground felt like it was moving. This was very annoying, though it did not make me sick. A friend said ginger worked great for seasickness, so I sliced three pieces of ginger root into hot water and let it steep. The ginger tea made the ground stop moving that same day.

People often don't anticipate that sensation of solid ground swaying beneath their feet after they have accustomed themselves to being on a boat. We're glad to hear that ginger tea worked as well for that strange feeling as it does against actual seasickness.

I desperately need your help. I was diagnosed with genital herpes three years ago, and this diagnosis has left me full of emotions. I am crying as I write this letter.

For fear of scorn and rejection, I cannot disclose this to anyone. I won't ask for a prescription because if I got it filled, anyone who works in the store would know, even the kids they hire after school.

Are there any over-the-counter vitamins I can take to help with the discomfort and pain? I feel tremendous pressure to maintain this secret. The only reason I haven't killed myself is because I have kids. I am afraid I could pass this on to them, so I constantly wash my hands and disinfect the house and car.

You are not alone. It is estimated that one in five Americans (45 million) is infected with genital herpes. Counseling can sometimes help overcome the emotional strain of this infection.

There are effective antiviral medications to prevent outbreaks or shorten the duration of an attack (Current Opinion in Infectious Diseases, February 2008). Your doctor could prescribe acyclovir (Zovirax), famciclovir (Famvir) or valacyclovir (Valtrex).

You should not worry about the pharmacy where you purchase the medication. Your privacy is protected. If you prefer, though, you could use an online or mail-order pharmacy service. That way you wouldn't even have to go to a pharmacy.

The virus that causes genital herpes is spread primarily by sexual contact, so you won't infect your children. Of course, during an outbreak, frequent hand-washing is advisable.

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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