Q: I had a pretty mild cold about a week ago that turned into a nasty cough. The sore throat, sneezing and congestion disappeared within three days, but this darn cough won’t let go. It keeps waking me up at night. Cough medicine doesn’t help. Do you have any remedies that might let me get a decent night’s sleep?
A: A remedy that has a lot of support from readers is Vicks VapoRub smeared on the soles of the feet. Here is just one of many stories we have received:
“I have used Vicks numerous times for my husband and me. It worked, but I didn’t know if it was due to a placebo effect (and I didn’t really care, so long as it worked).
“Our nieces were staying with us a few years ago, and they both had a nagging cough. One night, the older niece was coughing in her sleep. I went in her room, put Vicks on the soles of her feet and put socks on her. She didn’t cough the rest of the night.
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“The next night, the younger niece was coughing. I did the same to her, and she didn’t cough anymore that night either. Neither of the girls knew that I had put the Vicks on their feet, so the placebo effect seems unlikely.”
Readers will find more remedies in our Guides to Colds, Coughs and the Flu and Unique Uses for Vicks. Anyone who would like copies, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (68 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. QVi-276, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. They also can be downloaded from our website: www.peoplespharmacy.com.
Q: My mom had been suffering horrible leg cramps at night and couldn’t find relief. I happened to hear your discussion on your radio show about using magnesium for cramps that are an indirect result of certain medications.
We checked out the information. It turns out she was on a few of the medications that leach magnesium. She started taking magnesium supplements, and my dad even talked to his doctor about his chest cramps. For a few weeks now, neither has had a bad episode of cramping keeping them awake. Thank you.
A: Magnesium is one of those minerals that doesn’t always get the respect it deserves. Diuretics found in many blood-pressure medications can deplete magnesium. So can acid-suppressing drugs like esomeprazole (Nexium), lansoprazole (Prevacid) and omeprazole (Prilosec). When magnesium drops into the danger zone, muscle cramps are not the only complication. Irregular heart rhythms can be fatal.
Q: I am diabetic. I am on an insulin pump and take two medications to control blood sugar.
About a year ago, I could not get my blood sugar down below 225, no matter what I did.
When I started getting diarrhea all the time, I thought I might have a gluten allergy, so I went gluten-free. That took care of the diarrhea, but here is the surprising part: It dropped my blood sugars over 100 points! My insulin dose is lower, and I’m getting consistently good blood-sugar readings. Has anyone else reported this?
A: Several years ago, we interviewed Richard Bernstein, M.D., on our radio show. He is a Type 1 diabetic who specializes in treating diabetes.
He insists that a low-carbohydrate diet, which might be achieved by going gluten-free, can help control blood sugar. You can learn more about his perspective from his book “Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution.”
In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of this newspaper or email them via their Web site: www.PeoplesPharmacy.com. Their newest book is “Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.”