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Getting your zzz's

The Baltimore Sun

My husband has had a terrible time with the sleeping pill Ambien. One night he got up and wandered out of the house. A stranger had to bring him home. Another time he poured coffee on the computer in the middle of the night. He remembered nothing of either of these episodes.I have heard from other friends who have also had trouble with Ambien. Are there any natural ways to get to sleep?

We continue to hear from readers who experience sleepwalking or even sleep-driving under the influence of Ambien. Forgetting the episode afterward is also common.

There are many ways to promote sleep naturally. They include a hot bath in the evening, a high-carb snack at bedtime and herbs like valerian. One other trick might be to add magnesium before bed. Some readers tell us that about 300 milligrams of this mineral helps them ease into sleep. Too much magnesium can cause diarrhea, however. It is not safe for people with kidney problems.

When I was a child, my sister and I used to compete for first dibs on licking the bowl and beaters when Mother baked.

Recently, I was baking with my grandchildren and asked which of them wanted to lick the bowl. My daughter swooped between them and me with the bowl, and said: "No! No! Don't put that in your mouth! It has raw eggs in it!" Do raw eggs -- especially this minute amount -- hurt you?

You may think that your daughter is being especially picky, but she is following accepted recommendations for food safety. When you were little, nobody worried much about salmonella in raw eggs.

Food-safety scientists might not have realized then that licking the bowl did make some children sick. It makes sense to be careful even though it means one of childhood's pleasures is taken away.

Pasteurized egg whites in liquid or powdered form are available. Your daughter shouldn't object to the children licking the beaters if the eggs are pasteurized.

I am currently taking amoxicillin for a sinus infection, but my wife is allergic to penicillin. Is there any possibility that she would have a bad reaction if we had unprotected sex?

There are reports in the medical literature of women reacting to a medicine in their husband's semen. The concentration is usually low, but for sensitive people, even a little exposure can be risky. More than 20 years ago we heard from a reader:

"I know this sounds bizarre, but I'm convinced I have been reacting to the penicillin my husband has been taking for a strep throat. When I was 10, I had an allergic reaction to penicillin. Last week I experienced hives and wheezing soon after we made love."

Men might also react to medicines their wives are taking. It would be prudent to use a condom.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of this newspaper or e-mail them via their Web site:

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