Q. My husband gets headaches that are sporadic but severe enough to make him vomit. When they happen and I ask what I can do for him, he has suggested I shoot him.
We found that wrapping his head in ice seems to be the only thing that helps. (He refuses to see a doctor.)
A. Your husband really needs to see a doctor to get an accurate diagnosis. If he is suffering from migraines, he might benefit from a variety of treatments. Coenzyme Q10 and magnesium are available over the counter, and so are herbs such as butterbur and feverfew. A doctor could prescribe a migraine medicine such as sumatriptan, which often reverses severe headaches promptly.
If he is suffering from cluster headaches, breathing oxygen has been shown to be helpful (Headache, July 2016). Sumatriptan and zolmitriptan also work.
We were fascinated by your use of ice to wrap his head. Previously, we have heard from many migraine sufferers that inducing “brain freeze” by drinking ice water can stop a migraine quickly.
We are sending our Guide to Headaches and Migraines for your husband. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (70 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. M-98, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for $2 from our website: www.peoplespharmacy.com.
Q. I had been taking the blood pressure pill lisinopril for about 20 years before I had an allergic reaction. My tongue swelled so big that I had to get to the emergency room quickly.
It was very scary, as my throat was swelling shut and making it hard to breathe. From the ER I was admitted to the intensive care unit and given steroid breathing treatments as well as Benadryl and adrenaline.
After 24 hours, I was feeling better. Could the abdominal pain, bouts of diarrhea and bouts with shortness of breath have been warning signs of this allergy? It’s incredible that, after taking a medication for so long, one day it nearly kills you.
A. The reaction you experienced is called angioedema. It can affect the digestive tract as well as the mouth and throat. Angioedema is becoming more common among people taking ACE inhibitor medicines such as lisinopril (Medicine, November 2015).
You are lucky that the emergency room staff knew how to treat it, as hospitals don’t always have specific protocols in place (International Journal of Emergency Medicine, online, April 2017).
Q. I have known several healthy older Americans who ate a reduced-salt diet and nearly died. When they landed in the emergency room in trouble, their blood tests showed very low sodium levels. Once IV fluids with sodium were added, their health improved immediately.
A. Public health experts often recommend that Americans consume as little salt as possible to keep blood pressure under control. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines recommend that sodium intake be kept under 2,300 mg/day.
A new study suggests, however, that restricting sodium does not benefit blood pressure. The Framingham Offspring Study included more than 2,600 men and women between 30 and 64. All the volunteers had normal blood pressure when the study started, 16 years ago.
Surprisingly, by the end of the study, the average blood pressure of people whose sodium intake stayed under 2,500 mg a day was higher than the blood pressure of people who consumed more sodium. The results were presented at the Experimental Biology 2017 meeting in April.
In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, Fla. 32803, or email them at Questions@PeoplesPharmacy.com. Their newest book is “Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.”