Popular Pharmacy: Will Allergy Drugs Increase Risk of COVID-19 Infection?

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By Joe Graedon, MS,

and Teresa Graedon, Ph.D.

King Syndicate Features

Q. Does taking a drug such as Flonase, with immunosuppressive activity, increase the risk of contracting COVID-19 or other diseases? Allergy season is almost here. I would like to use Flonase but I hesitate.

A. Flonase (fluticasone) is a strong corticosteroid nasal spray. Fluticasone is used in asthma and COPD inhalers.

A study at the Cleveland Clinic found that patients with COPD dependent on inhaled corticosteroids were no longer likely to need hospitalization or intensive care due to COVID-19 (PLoS One, June 3).

Scientists have not found higher rates of coronavirus infection in people using such drugs.

Q. I once took a medicine (metronidazole) that would make you sick if you drank alcohol with it. While I was there, I went camping.

Fueling the alcohol stove with 100% denatured ethanol, I spilled a lot of it on my hands. I did not drink alcohol.

Later that night, I was severely ill with vomiting and diarrhea. My doctor was quite surprised when I told him about this reaction.

A. Metronidazole (Flagyl) is frequently prescribed for vaginal infections, amoebic dysentery, and several bacterial infections. The symptoms you have experienced are typical of an interaction between metronidazole and alcohol. Headaches and flushing are sometimes part of this reaction.

People on metronidazole should avoid drinking alcohol for at least three days after stopping the drug. Most doctors would probably be as surprised as yours to learn that you could get enough alcohol through your skin to trigger symptoms.

Q. Is treating high blood pressure a science, or is it more about throwing darts while blindfolded? I have moderately high blood pressure. My doctor tried lisinopril, but I developed an uncontrollable cough.

Then we went to amlodipine and my ankles swelled. I have never had an edema problem before. Then he prescribed me a beta blocker; it made me tired and interfered with my sex life. The other choice is water pills, but my doctor hates using water pills.

It’s frustrating because my blood pressure when we started this was 145/91. This is obviously not good, but the goal of getting patients to 120/80 as they get older seems unrealistic. I am in my fifties.

My stepfather is taking three antihypertensives, and I’d rather not. Wouldn’t I be better off losing 20 pounds and getting back in six months?

A. Losing weight can definitely lower blood pressure, so your idea is based on solid science. A UK study targeted weight loss for diabetes control (Diabetologia, May 31). Many volunteers also suffered from hypertension.

The researchers asked them to stop the blood pressure pills when they started the low-calorie diet formula. Within two months, their blood pressure had dropped significantly. Scottish researchers report that blood pressure drops by about one point for every two pounds lost.

You can learn more about foods, drinks, supplements, and other non-drug approaches to blood pressure control in our Blood Pressure Solutions eGuide. This online resource can be found under the Health eGuides tab at peoplespharmacy.com.

One example of such an approach is vegetables rich in nitrates (Journal of Nutrition, June 3). Beets and leafy greens like kale, spinach, and chard are high in natural nitrates.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon respond to letters from readers. Write to them at King Features Care, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803, or email them through their peoplespharmacy.com website.


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