Health: A Question of Health

Why can't I drink alcohol when taking antibiotics?

It is a myth that alcohol and antibiotics must never be taken together. Alcohol does not interfere with most antibiotics. But metronidazole and tinidazole (Flagyl and Fasigyn) cause an extremely unpleasant reaction if you drink when taking them.

Are head lice lotions dangerous?

Lotions and shampoos to kill head lice contain insecticides, which are toxic. Some are identical to the chemicals used in fly and wasp killers. I find it difficult to understand why the can of fly spray says "Keep off skin, wash hands after use", but the bottle of head lice lotion recommends spreading the lotion all over the scalp. No one knows whether there are any long-term dangerous effects. So to get rid of head lice, I recommend "bug-busting"; it uses no chemicals and is highly effective.

Wet your hair with ordinary conditioner and thoroughly comb it all the way to the roots with a nit comb. If you do this three times a week for three weeks, it will remove all live head lice and prevent them from laying new eggs.

My 11-year-old son has had an enlarged lymph node in the back of his neck for nearly nine years. He is in good health. A blood test a few years ago was normal. I am reluctant to take him to a specialist, who may want to do a biopsy. What action do you suggest?

Lymph nodes normally enlarge as the body's natural response to an infection. Occasionally they remain enlarged when the infection is past. If your son's has not changed for nine years, it is unlikely to be of significance. I suggest that you show it to a GP or paediatrician (but not to a surgeon, who is more likely to suggest a biopsy).

I have suffered from psoriasis on my elbows and knees for many years. I am concerned about the long-term effects of steroids and wonder if any other remedies may help.

Many non-steroid creams are very effective. Some are derived from vitamin D, which are a real advance. Some older preparations contain coal tar, which also helps.

Severe psoriasis can be treated with ultraviolet light. The simplest and most natural way to treat it is with sunshine, which can be surprisingly effective.

Please write to A Question of Health, `The Independent', 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL; fax 0171-293 2182; or e-mail to health@independent.co.uk (Dr Kavalier cannot respond personally to questions)

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