Dr. Christy Valentine answers some of our readers’ most recent health concerns, both personal and family-related, in her July column and offers her advice. If you have anything you’d like to ask for next month’s update, feel free to email the doctor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m a social drinker and am careful about drinking too heavily. In recent years, even if I don’t feel buzzed or drunk that evening, my hangovers are almost always terrible. Do I have to stop drinking all together to avoid these hangovers?
Unfortunately, we are all unique and all metabolize alcohol a little differently; one person may have a single drink and feel terribly hung-over the next day, while another can drink in excess and feel fine.
Your hangovers are likely more debilitating now than when you were in college. Essential enzymes that break down alcohol in the body diminish as we age, and become less efficient at digesting alcohol, which causes your hangovers to intensify.
But there is hope! You can encourage a pleasant morning after without abandoning drinking altogether, as long as you can abandon some other habits instead:
- Wine: You may feel like a glass of wine is a safe drink of choice. What you might not realize is that compounds in red wine, like tannins, actually trigger those immobilizing headaches that keep you in bed the next day.
- Smoking: Social smoking seems harmless because you only do it occasionally. However, research studies show that smoking cigarettes while drinking will intensify your hangover, even if you do not drink or smoke heavily that evening.
- Cheap liquor: You're an adult now, so it's time to abandon "cheap" booze. More expensive liquors are more filtered and distilled, which removes much of the congeners (a contributor to hangovers) found in the inexpensive alternatives. Also, darker liquors contain more congeners (brandy, tequila, whiskey) than clear liquors (gin, vodka, white wine).
- Hair-of-the-dog: Stop thinking Bloody Marys and mimosas with breakfast are a good idea—they just prolong hangovers. The full weight of a hangover won't come to pass until your body has rid itself of the alcohol completely. Try a Gatorade to replenish electrolytes and rehydrate instead.
- Aspirin: Abandon aspirin before bed, and trade it for a B-50 complex to break down the alcohol in your system and help prevent hangover symptoms. If you have a headache, wait until morning (6 to 8 hours to be safe) when less alcohol is in your system to take aspirin—your liver will thank you.
- Water: You've heard it before—match each alcoholic drink with one non-alcoholic drink throughout the night, and be sure to chug water before sleep. Rehydrating your body before bed will dramatically reduce your hangover symptoms.
I feel like my hands and feet are always really sweaty, but I’m not sure if it is a normal amount to sweat. Is there something wrong with me?
Let me start by saying, it is summer in the South and sweating is a perfectly normal, healthy response to the incredible heat outside.
What you need to pay attention to is when you are sweating. “Normal” sweating will happen when you are in hot temperatures, exercising or under a lot of stress or anxiety. Normal sweating can happen day or night, and occurs in nearly any part of the body. It is also common to sporadically sweat during menopause, also known as a “hot flash.”
What you describe, sweating excessively from the hands and feet outside of “normal” circumstances, could be a symptom of hyperhidrosis. This condition makes you sweat to the point that it will soak your clothes, literally drip from your fingers or pool in your shoes. If you have hyperhidrosis, you would see episodes of this unexplained, excessive sweating at least once a week.
It should be noted that inexplicable sweating is a common side effect of some prescription medications. Also, it can be a symptom of other underlying chronic diseases.
Monitor yourself over the next few weeks and take note of when and how much you are sweating. Bring this information to your primary care provider. This can help her better evaluate your particular situation.
In the meantime, there are a variety of over-the-counter prescription grade antiperspirant deodorants that can help you save some embarrassment. Also, try to wear patterned, light-colored garments, as these will help mask sweat spots made on your clothes.
My 8-year-old has been complaining of frequent, intense headaches. Should I be concerned this is a sign of something serious?
Don’t panic just yet—kids, like adults, can get headaches. Though, if your child is experiencing headaches, you should definitely schedule a doctor’s examination to determine the cause.
Children will often experience headaches when they are sick; inflammation or infections in the sinuses, throat or ears can all cause headaches in your little one. Kids, like adults, can also suffer from tension headaches; these can be caused by stresses at school, with friends and family or even simply poor posture.
However, the pain you describe your child experiencing sounds like reoccurring migraines. While the exact cause of a migraine is unknown, there are triggers for migraines that you can help your child avoid to lessen their frequency and intensity. These triggers include:
- Bright lights
- Changes in weather
- Changes in routine or sleep patterns
- Loud noises
- Certain foods—avoid foods with tyramine, like aged cheeses and processed meats
- Food additives—avoid food preservatives, including nitrates found in “junk” foods
- Beverages—avoid caffeinated drinks, such as soda or tea
- Too much physical activity
- Too much sun
- Skipping meals
The best way to alleviate migraine pain for kids (and adults) is to treat the symptoms with medicine at the first signs of a headache. Helpful medications include analgesics (for pain; use ibuprofen or acetaminophen, NOT aspirin), antiemetics (for nausea or vomiting) or sedatives (to help him/her sleep, which also helps relieve migraine pain).
Keep a diary to track your child’s headache occurrences. If your child’s headaches worsen overtime, increase in their frequency or are coupled with any other symptoms (like loss of vision, speech problems or muscle weakness) you should schedule an evaluation with your child’s primary care physician immediately, as this could be a sign of a more serious problem.
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