GRAEDONS | PEOPLE'S PHARMACY Making sure your medicine isn't contributing to insomnia

Q. I would like to point out a side effect of allergy medications that contain pseudoephedrine for nasal decongestion. Taking Claritin D left me completely unable to fall asleep. I was literally up all night with a racing heartbeat.
I have had insomnia problems before, so I did not immediately associate this with the medication and continued to take it for five days. I was so sleep-deprived that I couldn't work.
I finally read the warning about nervousness, dizziness or sleeplessness. I called my doctor, who said I should switch to plain Claritin (without a decongestant). On this drug I sleep like a baby.
I found that some OTC allergy medicines I had taken for years also contain pseudoephedrine. I suspect that this contributed to my earlier insomnia problems.
I urge anyone with insomnia to check all medications for pseudoephedrine. It does not affect everyone, but some of us just can't handle even a small amount.
A. Thanks for sharing your story. Millions of people struggle with insomnia, and many don't realize that the medicines they take may be contributing to their problem.
Decongestants aren't the only culprits. Antihistamines, antidepressants, asthma medicines, blood-pressure pills and pain relievers are just some of the drugs that can cause insomnia.
Q. A friend told me you had a recent column about a safe sunscreen for babies. Since I have three great-grandbabies ranging in age from 2 years to 6 weeks, I would very much appreciate the information. My granddaughters are "outdoorsy." What sunscreen would be OK?
A. There is concern that the ingredients in many sunscreens act like estrogen. Although these compounds are absorbed through the skin, they don't seem to pose a danger to adults. But some experts worry that babies and young children might be vulnerable to subtle adverse effects.
One way to avoid this problem is to use a sunscreen containing physical sunblockers like zinc or titanium. Read sunscreen labels or look for a product like Clinique Super City Block, Blue Lizard Australian Suncream-Baby or Neutrogena Sensitive Skin Sunblock.
Q. You occasionally offer tips on swallowing pills. I have found a much better solution: yogurt. It works like a charm.
Just plop the pills into your mouth, follow with a well-rounded teaspoon of yogurt and swallow. Everything slides right down, and you never even feel the pills. I take so many pills, and yogurt has certainly made my mornings easier.
A. Thanks for the tip. Just ask your pharmacist first if the pills you are taking interact with yogurt.
Many antibiotics, such as tetracycline or Cipro (ciprofloxacin), are not absorbed well if taken with high-calcium foods such as yogurt, milk or even calcium-fortified orange juice. This could allow an infection to worsen, essentially untreated despite the antibiotic.
It would also be a mistake to take Fosamax with yogurt. This osteoporosis drug will not be absorbed well if taken with any food, including yogurt.
X In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019, or e-mail them at or via their Web site:
& copy; 2005 King Features Syndicate Inc.

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