Medical Q&A: What’s In Your Medicine Chest?

1. Just what is an allergy? How do they occur? I have been able to eat oysters all my life, but now I get an itchy rash if I even touch one. How can this happen?

Dr. Besser: Allergies are due to an overactive immune system. Normally the body allows for many irritants in and around it without reacting. When you develop an allergy, the body decides that the substance is “a foreign invader” and must be eliminated. So, the body starts to produce substances like histamine and special white blood cells to fight off this “foreign invader”. This causes the typical allergy reactions such as watery eyes, sneezing, runny nose, itching and hives. When a body is first exposed to the substance- it won’t react because the body has never seen it before. Over time, however, and repeated exposure to that substance, something in the body triggers the allergic reaction. So, that is why you used to eat oysters, but now can’t. By the way, you should be careful of other shellfish too, it may also cause the same allergic reaction.

2. I am a very fit, healthy and normal weight 32 year old, but my doctor wants to start me on treatment for high blood pressure. Why?

Dr. Besser: I will assume by your question that your doctor has checked your blood pressure on multiple occasions and found it to be repeatedly elevated. I will also quess that other members of your immediate family have high blood pressure or heart disease, which puts you at risk for both if not treated. The real question you are asking is why does an otherwise healthy person whose blood pressure is high need medication. The best way to answer that is with an analogy. Assume you had a lovely flower garden that needs occasional watering (that is your body in this analogy). So, you get your hose (which is actually your blood vessels) and turn on the water (blood) to feed your garden. So, as you know, a nice gentle trickle of water (normal blood pressure) gentle feeds your flowers. But, if you accidently turn the hose on too much (high blood pressure) your beautiful flowers are going to be knocked down or will be pushed right out of your garden. To get back to your real body…, the effects of high blood pressure over time causes damage to your organs, like your heart, lungs, kidneys, liver. Your doctor, by giving you medication to lower your blood pressure, is trying to prevent such damage from occuring so you will stay fit and healthy for many years.

3. What should a good home medical chest contain?

Dr. Besser:Tylenol, Ibuprofen, Neosporin (or other generic antibiotic creams), bandages of all sizes, a reusable heat/ice pack, ace bandages, a sling, Maalox (or other antacid), PeptoBismol, Benadryl, topical cortisone cream, Q-tips, cotton balls, alcohol, rubber gloves (for the person helping the injured person), Dramamine (or other medication for nausea/motion sickness), Imodium (for diarrhea), tweezers (for taking out splinters), a flashlight (to better see with), saline for rinsing (this can also be used to wash out eyes if there is something in the eye). These are just the basics.


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