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Q: My husband and I joined our son and his family in Florida for the children's spring vacation. We had been looking forward to this visit, but Jack forgot to pack his blood pressure medicine Tenormin. I think not having it almost killed him.When we realized that the medication was missing, we went to a local pharmacy to try to get more. They wouldn't even give us an emergency supply without talking to our pharmacist at home. Since it was Saturday night and our drugstore is closed on Sundays, there was no way to get any medicine until Monday.

All day Sunday Jack had palpitations and chest pain. I was afraid he was going to have a heart attack. Why was the pharmacist so pigheaded?

A: You are right that your husband was in danger on Sunday without his beta blocker medication. Drugs like Tenormin (atenolol), Inderal (propranolol), Corgard (nadolol) and Lopressor (metoprolol) must never be stopped suddenly. Angina, irregular heartbeats and even heart attacks may result.

The pharmacist was in a difficult position. Although he was doubtless aware of the danger your husband was in, legally he could not dispense the medicine without a prescription. Some pharmacists will come to the rescue in such a situation, however, despite the legal restrictions.

Jack needs to be more careful about packing his medication for future trips. But if you are ever in this predicament again, it would be wise to have your husband see a doctor in an urgent care or emergency room to get a temporary prescription.

Q: I am looking for a natural diet aid. The health food herbalist recommended spirulina. Can you tell me how effective it is for losing weight?

A: Spirulina is blue-green algae - sort of like pond scum. Some promoters claim it will boost energy and help people lose weight.

In 1981 the Food and Drug Administration concluded that there is no evidence that blue-green algae is effective for weight loss. Although this stuff is high in protein and minerals, it is an expensive way to supplement the diet. Until we see a well-controlled study we would not recommend any kind of algae for quick weight loss.

Q: Is there a way to prevent swimmer's ear? My kids spend a lot of time at the pool in the summer, but they often get earaches.

A: You can buy over-the-counter ear drops such as Swim Ear, Dry/Ear and Ear-Dry, which contain alcohol and boric acid. But an ear, nose and throat specialist suggested a home remedy that may be best. Mix one part vinegar with four parts water and rinse the ear after swimming.

Joe and Teresa Graedon answer questions from readers in their column. Write to them in care of the Greensboro News & Record, P.O. Box 20848, Greensboro, N.C. 27420.

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