Question: : I started taking lisinopril for high blood pressure in December. Soon after, I developed a nagging dry cough that wouldn't stop. I have thrown up because the coughing was so bad. I also have had blood tests and chest X-rays. They all came back negative.

In desperation, I went to an ear, nose and throat specialist, who told me this kind of cough is common in people my age (50) due to postnasal drip. He knew I was on lisinopril but gave me an antihistamine and cough suppressant. They didn't help.

I learned on your Web site that lisinopril can cause a chronic cough. I have not gotten a good night's sleep in five months, and I am furious that none of the doctors I've seen suggested changing this drug. Can I control my blood pressure without medicine?

Answer:: Don't stop the lisinopril on your own, but do discuss this issue with your physician and request a different medication. ACE inhibitor hypertension drugs like lisinopril can cause a very persistent cough in susceptible people.

Many nondrug approaches can help lower blood pressure. Adopting one or more might allow you to get by on a lower dose of medication or eventually to phase off it, with your doctor's help. Weight loss, exercise, slower breathing and a diet rich in fruits and vegetables (especially beets and spinach) can all be helpful.

Question: : Several weeks ago, you had a question from someone about using poison-ivy extract to get rid of warts. You suggested that this is a bad idea and not very safe.

I am a retired dermatologist and disagree with your opinion. It is much better to have poison-ivy dermatitis than a mosaic plantar wart. Poison ivy is a nuisance that clears in a week or two and is nicely controlled. Very severe cases are uncommon, but even those are no match for a mosaic plantar wart. Having one on the sole of your foot would be like walking on a 50-cent piece in your shoe.

If I can relieve a patient by scratching in a drop of poison-ivy extract and exciting an immune response to the wart, I have done a great favor for that patient.

Answer: : We discouraged the use of poison ivy as a home remedy for warts because it requires great caution. A dermatologist who can apply an extract under controlled conditions would be much less likely to create a serious complication for a highly susceptible patient.

Thank you for sharing your expertise. We still think using poison ivy against warts is best left to professionals.

Question: : I wanted to thank you for a recent Q&A; about a safe way to get rid of mosquitoes in the house. The suggestion about 90 percent isopropyl alcohol was a great idea.

My husband was at the computer, saw two mosquitoes and sprayed them. They died instantly. We had been trying to find a way of spraying something in the house that would be safe.

Answer: :: We are pleased the alcohol spray worked so well, but we were taken to task for leaving out a very important warning: "I am very concerned about the advice you gave about killing mosquitoes using isopropyl alcohol. You wrote, 'Put some (isopropyl alcohol, which is labeled FLAMMABLE on the container!) in a plastic spray bottle and adjust the nozzle until you get a fine mist' and then you say to spray the mosquito when it lands.

"This advice is a formula for disaster, especially in a cabin or camping situation. In an unmarked bottle, the alcohol could be confused with water. If that mist came in contact with an open flame or any ignition source (camp lamps and fires, or electrical equipment like space heaters), it would act like a flamethrower, and someone would get hurt."

We had not imagined the possibility of spraying the alcohol near a flame. We agree that isopropyl alcohol is indeed very flammable and must NEVER be sprayed near any ignition source.

Question: : My husband has COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and suffers when he retains water. It seems to us that when the water retention is at its worst, the diuretic Lasix just doesn't work.

I started thinking about diet and what foods might work as a diuretic and remembered that when we went on a low-carb/high-protein diet, we immediately lost a lot of water weight. We tried it for three days, and it was miraculous.

Now when he is retaining water we do three days of strict Atkins, and he's back to normal. Why don't doctors recommend this?

Answer: : Perhaps they don't know about it. We checked with Dr. Eric Westman of Duke University Medical Center, who has done research on the Atkins diet. He told us that both sodium restriction and carbohydrate restriction have a diuretic effect. Most people don't know that insulin leads to sodium retention, which leads to water retention. Dietary carbohydrates make insulin rise, so a high-carb diet leads to sodium and fluid retention.

According to Westman, "Both the low-sodium Rice Diet and the low-carb Atkins Induction diet will lead to water loss during the first week or so."

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 at

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