Archive for the ‘Medications’ Category

Unlikely Allies: The Flu Shot and Your Immune System

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

by Leigh Ann Otte

Seems like your immune system and the flu shot would be mortal enemies—fighting to the death. But that would mean they’d both have to be alive to start with. And they’re not. The flu shot’s dead, poor thing.

Besides, it and your immune system are on the same side, working together to help you battle the flu shot’s evil twin: the live flu.

Internist Bruce Heckman explains in this week’s featured article, “Flu Shot With a Compromised Immune System: Good Idea for Most”:

When a healthy person gets sick, the body produces antibodies in the blood to help fight off the disease. The flu shot works because of this mechanism. It contains dead flu viruses that trigger the body to produce specific antibodies to combat the flu strain (or strains) going around that year. Because the shot only contains dead viruses, it doesn’t actually give you the flu.

Though we hear about people getting flu-like symptoms after the shot every year, the CDC says it’s rare for that to happen. When it does, the yuckiness doesn’t last more than a couple of days.

Do you usually get the flu shot? Why or why not?

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Leigh Ann Otte is the managing editor of and a freelance writer specializing in health and aging. This information is not meant to be individual advice. Please consult your doctor for that. See our disclaimer here.

How Caffeine Helps Relieve Pain

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

by Leigh Ann Otte

Ever had a pain medicine keep you up at night? Maybe that’s because it contained caffeine.

Sometimes when you have a headache, it’s caused by swollen blood vessels pressing on nerves. Caffeine shrinks blood vessels. That’s part of why certain medicines, like Anacin and Excedrin, have caffeine. Pharmacist Daniel P. Hays explains more in this week’s featured article, “Why Is Caffeine in My Pain Reliever?”

Do you take pain relievers with caffeine? Why or why not?

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Leigh Ann Otte is the managing editor of

Hot Pepper Cream: Burn That Pain Away!

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

by Leigh Ann Otte, Managing Editor

If “rub it” seems like sissy advice for your throbbing cluster headaches, aching back or worrisome arthritis pain, perhaps “burn it” will do the trick?

Capsaicin creams and sprays burn away the pain, so to speak, with the same chemical that makes peppers hot. These medicines make your body use up the substance triggering your pain. Integrative medicine physician Andrea E. Gordon explains in our article “Capsaicin Treatment: How Hot Peppers May Help Burn Away Headache and Arthritis Pain.”

Of course, the question is, is the cure worse than the treatment? In some cases, maybe; in others, maybe not, says Dr. Gordon. One thing’s for sure: Don’t get it in your eyes. “Capsaicin oleoresin is an oily extract used in pepper self-defense sprays!” Dr. Gordon says.

You can find capsaicin treatments in your pharmacy, but some applications require a health-care provider’s supervision. (Read the article for more on that.)

Have you tried capsaicin cream or spray? What was it like? Did it work?

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19 Tips for Outdoor and Indoor Seasonal Allergies

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

by Leigh Ann Otte, managing editor

Seasonal allergies can be so frustrating. It can feel like you have two choices: Feel miserable from the allergies or feel miserable from the medication.

Fortunately, though, those aren’t your only options. In “19 Tips From Allergists for How to Prevent and Treat Allergies,” allergists give their tips on dealing with indoor and outdoor allergies—without medication.

If you do need medicine, check out “Allergy Treatment: What Medicines to Take for Allergies—and How to Take Them,” which features an in-depth, practical rundown of your options—and how to use them best.

Do you have allergies? What has helped you?

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Should Medical Marijuana Be Legal? Experts Debate, on National Pot Smoking Day.

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

by Leigh Ann Otte

Today, 4/20, is National Pot Smoking Day. Yeah, it’s unofficial. But around the country, people will be smoking marijuana at 4:20 p.m.

So we thought this would be the perfect moment to examine a different side of this illegal drug: the medical one.


Dermatologists’ Top Picks for Your Skin

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

by Leigh Ann Otte

Choosing skin-care products can be daunting. There are so many claims, ingredients, formulations—and prices!

So we went straight to the experts. We asked three dermatologists which products they’d recommend—brand names and all. And they said there are plenty of great finds right in your neighborhood drugstore.


Johnson & Johnson Recall List: Tylenol, Benadryl, Motrin, Rolaids, More

Friday, January 15th, 2010

by Leigh Ann Otte, managing editor

Heard about the Johnson & Johnson recall? News came out today that they’ve expanded it. Most of the stories I’ve seen don’t link to the list of recalled products, so we thought we’d post a quick link. Here ya go.

The site mentions specific lots of Tylenol, Motrin, Benadryl, Rolaids, Simply Sleep and St. Joseph. The complaint is, some of these medicines have a musty odor and have caused a small number of people to experience fun stuff like nausea or diarrhea.


Is it safe to split pills? FDA warning says not usually–even when you think the dosage is correct

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

The FDA released a public statement that pill splitting may be hazardous to your health.  They advise against the growing practice of asking your doctor for a tablet twice the strength you need, then halving it to make two doses. My Family Doctor has advocated this in the past as a way to save money.

They cite four reasons “why splitting is risky.”


DEVELOPING: Questions about Boniva, Tamiflu and the Medicare donut-hole discount

Friday, June 26th, 2009

by Leigh Ann Otte, managing editor

My Family Doctor has learned that Boniva and Tamiflu are no longer covered by the recently announced Medicare-discount agreement.  Whether their manufacturer Roche Pharmaceuticals will instate its own discount is unclear.

On June 20, the powerful trade group Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America made big news, announcing their members would offer a 50-percent discount to most people in the dreaded Medicare Part D doughnut hole. But today, the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest reported Roche is leaving PhRMA.

My Family Doctor asked Roche whether they would still offer the discount. (more…)

Doctors’ tips on taking your medicine correctly

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

It may be a pharmacy urban legend but there is this ageless story of a doctor prescribing rectal suppositories to a patient.  On the follow-up visit the doctor asked if the suppositories helped and the patient replied, “No doc. It just falls right back out still wrapped in that aluminum foil.” It may or may not be true but I always write directions to unwrap suppository, then insert rectally.

In our March/April issue of James Hubbard’s My Family Doctor we asked physicians what were common mistakes they see patients make when it comes to taking medicines.  We now have the article, “Top 10 Medication Mistakes: Doctors’ tips on taking your medicine,” up on our web home page.  If you have time, take a read.  You might learn something new.

If you do, I would love to know your comments including any additional tips you might add.

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