Q: Could Hismanal cause weight gain? My allergist prescribed this new antihistamine several months ago for nasal allergies.

It has worked extremely well to control my sniffling, but I have gone from 195 to almost 210 pounds since I started taking it. My wife will vouch for the fact that I have not been overeating. So I am wondering if the drug may be responsible.A: Hismanal (astemizole) is a new, nonsedating antihistamine that can help control allergies without causing drowsiness. But there are reports of weight gain in some people.

A company representative noted that about 4 percent of the subjects who received Hismanal noticed some extra pounds after taking this medication during its testing phase. The manufacturer does not know why this occurs.

We can't say whether Hismanal is responsible for your weight gain, but it is certainly a possibility.

Q: Can herpes virus I (the kind that causes cold sores) be transferred through oral sex to the private parts of a man or woman? Is an active herpes infection obvious, or might it remain unnoticed? Will Zovirax work against both herpes I, on the mouth or lips, and herpes II on the genitals?

A: Zovirax (acyclovir) is an effective antiviral agent against both kinds of herpes infections. It is not a cure, but when this drug is taken at the first sign of a sore it can speed healing and reduce pain.

The virus can be spread from one person to another even when there is no obvious blister. It can also be spread from mouth to genitals. For more information about this and other sexually transmitted diseases, you can call a hotline (800) 227-8922.

Q: I am in my late 50s with severe back pain due to a chronic condition along with arthritis. As treatment, I take two to four 400 mg. tablets of ibuprofen daily.

How does ibuprofen compare to Darvon for a condition like mine?

Also, why does the package information for ibuprofen products warn against taking aspirin at the same time? Presumably a man my age should take aspirin every day to lessen the risk of a heart attack. Is that a bad idea?

A: Darvon (propoxyphene) is a narcotic-like pain reliever. Ibuprofen is primarily an anti-inflammatory agent that works differently to relieve back or arthritis pain.

Regular daily use of any analgesic demands medical supervision. Ibuprofen can be irritating to the digestive tract and may also do damage to the kidneys. Darvon can be habit forming if used over a long period of time.

Aspirin, like ibuprofen, can be hard on the stomach and the combination may cause you problems. Ask your physician if 1) you need a daily aspirin tablet and 2) your benefit will be worth the risk of gastrointestinal trouble.

Q: I was surprised to read in your column that there are no over-the-counter remedies for morning sickness. While I was pregnant I found that supplementing my prenatal vitamin with 25 mg of vitamin B6 helped me immensely. This dose is not extremely high, and might help other women.

A: Vitamin B6, otherwise known as pyridoxine, used to be available in the prescription morning sickness medicine Bendectin. This drug was removed from the market because of legal questions about birth defects.

We have not be able to document any proven effectiveness of this vitamin for the nausea of pregnancy. Because pyridoxine can be toxic at high doses we would advise caution.

Joe and Teresa Graedon answer questions from readers in their column. Write to them in care of the Greensboro News & Record, P.O. Box 20848, Greensboro, N.C. 27420.

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