Q. My doctor put me on a vacuum therapy pump a few years ago and it has proven to be a godsend. I am 81 and am now having the best sex ever.

He had prescribed various medications to help with my erection problem, but none of them worked. He then told me to try using the vacuum every day for seven or eight minutes to see if it would restore my ability to have erections. It worked!

A. Before there were medications for erectile dysfunction doctors prescribed vacuum pumps to assist men with this problem. This device generally consists of a plastic tube to enclose the penis. As the air is pumped out of the tube, blood flows into the penis to create an erection. A special elastic band helps to maintain it.

Even though many men prefer oral medication, both Viagra and its new competitor Levitra are incompatible with heart medicines such as nitroglycerin, Imdur, Isordil or Monoket. A man taking such a drug would need a different approach for erectile dysfunction, and the vacuum pump is one.

We have summarized other alternatives for this problem in our Guides to Drugs that Affect Sexuality and Treating Sexual Dysfunction. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (no. 10) stamped (60 cents), self-addressed envelope: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. YP-96, P. O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.

Q. I have been on high blood pressure medicine for nearly a year. My ears have been ringing for most of that time. Although the doctor has changed the prescription, my ears still ring sometimes. What over-the-counter and prescription drugs cause this annoying reaction?

A. Dozens of drugs can contribute to ringing or buzzing in the ears (tinnitus). Antidepressants such as Prozac, Paxil, Wellbutrin and Zoloft may do it. So can pain relievers like naproxen (Aleve, Anaprox, Naprosyn), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and aspirin (Alka-Seltzer, Ascriptin, Ecotrin, etc). Even certain antihistamines and blood pressure pills may aggravate ear ringing.

Because it is hard to determine if tinnitus is drug-induced or spontaneous, you will need to work closely with your doctor to try to solve this puzzle.

Q. Outbreaks of head lice are common in our public schools, so we parents all share our stories about the best, least expensive way to deal with this problem. I schedule a “weekend beauty ritual” and invite our children’s friends over for a beauty pack and hair styling party.

To rid the scalp of the lice, completely saturate the scalp with mineral oil, comb the oil through the hair and then cover the hair with plastic wrap, topped by a warm bath towel. Leave the oil on the hair for about an hour. (The girls paint each other’s nails.) The oil washes out with regular shampoo and the nits can be combed out easily because the oil loosens them.

The hair is left soft and shiny, and the child never needs to feel ashamed. This approach is nontoxic and costs only pennies a treatment. In five years of doing this with our kids, only one child had a repeat infestation.
A. Thanks for the tip. Presumably mineral oil is acting like petroleum jelly to smother the live lice and loosen nits. It sounds much easier to remove, however.

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