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Cough connection baffles

>Q. I've been battling a common cold this week. One night, in desperation, I coated the soles of my feet with Vicks, and the cough subsided. I have no idea how that could work, but I don't care. I slept!

A. We are as mystified as you are about this remedy. A nurse told us a decade ago that putting Vicks VapoRub on the soles of her child's feet stopped a nighttime cough. Since then we have heard from scores of other readers that this is helpful. Anyone who tries this should be sure to put on socks over the Vicks to protect the sheets.

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>Q. Why are doctors so determined that menopausal patients should take estrogen?

When I told my doctor that I am reluctant to take Premarin for fear of cancer, she actually said that cancer is no big deal. It is just a way of life now: Get cancer, get treatment and get over it, is pretty much what she said. I was appalled and have found a new doctor.

A. We share your indignation. Cancer is a big deal, even when treated successfully.

The controversy over hormone replacement therapy (Premarin, Prempro, Estrace and others) has raged for decades. The Food and Drug Administration requires warnings about both breast and uterine cancer in the official prescribing information.

We are sending you our Guide to Menopause, with a discussion of many alternate approaches to managing hot flashes and night sweats. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (65 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. W-50, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for $2 from our website: www.peoplespharmacy.com.

A combination of black cohosh and St. John's wort might ease menopausal symptoms. One study found that French maritime pine bark extract (Pycnogenol) may also be helpful (Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, August 2007; Panminerva Medica, September 2011, Suppl. 1).

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>Q. After 30 years of atrial fibrillation (A-fib), I started taking magnesium, fish oil and vitamin D daily. I think this regimen keeps my A-fib spells down to one every few months, usually triggered by caffeine.

A. Atrial fibrillation requires medical management from a physician. We do NOT want anyone to experience a stroke because of home treatment. Make sure your doctor knows about your supplements. Symptoms of A-fib are not always detectable.