Q. I drink at least eight large glasses of water every day to maintain good health. When I play soccer or tennis, I force myself to drink a lot more.
I recently heard that you can drink too much water. What are the consequences?
A. People have been led to believe that they need to drink a lot of water to stay healthy, especially if they are exercising vigorously. But new research suggests that there are hazards to overdosing on fluids.
A study in the New England Journal of Medicine (April 14, 2005) revealed that marathon runners who drank more than 3 liters of fluids during a race were more likely to develop a complication called hyponatremia (water intoxication).
If sodium levels drop through sweating and excessive water intake, a person can experience dizziness, confusion, seizures or coma. This can even be fatal. The same complication can occur when parents force fluids on children with fevers from colds or the flu.
Drinking to quench thirst is usually a good guide to preventing dehydration. But don't force yourself to drink more than you want. And don't count on sports drinks to prevent hyponatremia.
Q. I am a survivor of congestive heart failure following a triple bypass. I had to be hospitalized four times following the operation because of fluid buildup.
I was told to stop the medicines I'd been taking for arthritis (first Vioxx, then Celebrex) because they were affecting my heart. I was at death's door and was told I might not make it if I continued on Celebrex. A low-salt diet, occasional Tylenol and warm-water exercise have made me feel substantially better.
A. There is growing evidence that many arthritis pain relievers (NSAIDs) may cause fluid retention and increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Even traditional anti-inflammatory drugs like naproxen and ibuprofen may be linked to cardiovascular complications like heart failure.
Your approach is sensible. Gentle exercise and acetaminophen are safer alternatives for pain relief.
Q. Do you have a remedy for ingrown toenails? I cannot afford to visit the podiatrist.
A. To keep the edges of toenails from growing into the surrounding skin, they should be trimmed straight across rather than in a curved pattern. One reader told us that applying Vicks VapoRub around the sore edges of the nail reduced the inflammation, and the nail grew out properly. We do not know if this would work for others.
Q. My daughter frequently gets what she calls "jumpy legs," mostly at night and especially if she has taken some type of cold medication. A hot bath helps but not for long. What are the possible remedies?
A. Restless legs interfere with many people's sleep. Your daughter may need to avoid cold medicines, especially before bedtime.
Some people find that nutritional supplements such as calcium, magnesium, iron or folic acid can be helpful. One man found that giving up soft drinks helped.
We summarize a variety of remedies for restless legs and leg cramps in our Guide to Leg Pain.
XIn their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, N.Y. 10019, or e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org or via their Web site: www.peoplespharmacy.org.
& copy; 2005 King Features Syndicate Inc.