Q: Every year during the winter months, I have a problem with my thumbs cracking at the edge of my thumbnails. It takes weeks for them to heal, and the cracks are very painful. They do not respond to any crack creams or lotions. They clear up on their own, only to reappear a few weeks later. They look exactly like a cut, but they hurt a lot more. What can you suggest?
A: Many people find that liquid bandage helps protect these fingertip splits so they can heal more quickly. Here's another reader's report on this problem: "It can be extremely painful just doing everyday things: washing dishes, picking up small objects, buttoning clothes or writing. The only thing that gives me any relief has been instant glue. My doctor said I could use it as long as it wasn't a big, gaping wound.
"The glue gets hard enough to protect the cuts, keeps out water, dirt, bacteria, and stays on just long enough to let my cut heal from the inside out, and then it peels off."
Q: I've been taking Symbicort for years, and now my voice has been affected. Is there another medication in pill form that would be the same as Symbicort?
A: People with asthma or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) are frequently prescribed inhaled corticosteroids. These drugs include budesonide (in Pulmicort and Symbicort) or fluticasone (in Advair and Flovent).
Inhaling steroid-type medications can affect vocal cords. Hoarseness or laryngitis has been reported to affect anywhere from 5 percent to 58 percent of patients (Mayo Clinic Proceedings, September 2012).
This side effect has been underappreciated. Please discuss your concerns with a physician to see if there is a different way to control your breathing problems. Oral steroids (prednisone) pose other serious side effects and are not a desirable solution.
A: You are right that Aspergum was once a way to get aspirin (227 mg) into the body quickly. It is no longer available in the U.S.
Several readers brought a different product to our attention, however. UrgentRx makes a powdered aspirin (Aspirin to Go) containing a 325 mg dose designed for rapid absorption with or without water.
Q: I am extremely sensitive to lactose (milk sugar). My insurance company wants me to switch from Lipitor (which I take with a Lactaid pill) to a generic version, but the generic manufacturer refuses to tell me how much lactose its pills contain. We patients really can't consider generic medicines identical to the brand-name pills if the companies won't come clean on their inactive ingredients.
A: We are dismayed that the company won't give you this crucial information. It may not matter to most people, but for someone who is sensitive to lactose, it could make a huge difference.
In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Send questions to them via peoplespharmacy.com.