Share story

Q: As a biologist, let me offer my thoughts on heartburn remedies. For all but a few people, suppressing stomach acid with drugs is the last thing to do. I suspect that most heartburn is due to insufficient stomach acid rather than too much.

A: Stomach acid is critical for digesting protein, absorbing calcium, iron and vitamin B-12 and preventing bacterial infection (Current Opinion in Gastroenterology, November 2012). For millions of years, virtually all animals have depended on strong stomach acid for digestion and protection (Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology, Suppl. 193, 1992).

Although antacids and acid-suppressing drugs (lansoprazole, omeprazole, etc.) are mainstays for treating heartburn, many readers have reported that low-carb diets can prevent symptoms. Others say that almonds or even apple-cider vinegar eases their discomfort.

Q: A couple of weeks ago, someone wrote to you about persistent lice in a child’s hair, regardless of what lice treatment was used. You suggested coating the child’s hair with mayonnaise or Vaseline.

This week, save 90% on digital access.

DO NOT USE Vaseline! Vaseline is not water-soluble, nor does it respond to any soap or shampoo on the market.

When I was in junior high, Vaseline in girls’ hair was an initiation stunt that made parents and beauty salons despair. There was simply no way to remove it. Please don’t suggest this again.

A: It is extremely difficult to get petroleum jelly (Vaseline) out of hair. We learned this many years ago after hearing from angry parents.

A consensus eventually developed that the first step for removal is to treat with mineral (or baby) oil. The second step is to wash the mineral oil (and at least some of the Vaseline) out with Dawn dish detergent (keeping it out of eyes). The third step is regular shampoo.

Other people have reported success with Goop (mechanics’ hand cleanser), Campsuds (camping soap from Sierra Dawn), Charlie’s Soap all-purpose cleaner or greasepaint (theatrical makeup) remover.

Different lice-eradication strategies can be found at Favorites include Cetaphil cleanser that hardens overnight and suffocates lice or rinsing with Listerine to kill the critters.

Q: I have successfully taken Greenstone alprazolam (generic Xanax) to control epilepsy for more than a year. I was switched to a different generic (a round pill), and within a week of starting it I had my first seizure in two and a half years! My pharmacist was able to special-order the Greenstone, so hopefully it won’t be an issue for me again.

A: You are not the only one to report seizures after being switched to a generic version of an anticonvulsant medicine. The question of whether anti-epilepsy drugs are truly bioequivalent is controversial among doctors as well as patients (The Lancet Neurology, March 2010; Annals of Pharmacotherapy, November 2011).

Obviously, you have done well on the Greenstone generic. Our advice to people with epilepsy is to avoid switching between generics if possible.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them c/o King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., 15th floor, New York, NY 10019, or via their

Custom-curated news highlights, delivered weekday mornings.