Fibromyalgia Flair from Robitussin®?
Guaifenesin cough syrup
©2003 Melissa Kaplan
In early January of this year, I realized that my breathing was impaired by as a result of thick secretions lodged in there. I didn't have any sort of sinus infection, or head or chest cold preceding this. I haven't had a cold or bronchitis in years (there are some benefits to having my form of CFS), so had no expectorant on hand. I made it to the store on the 6th, and after much searching through what seemed like hundreds of bottles of brand name and store-brand cough preparations with all kinds of additives, I finally found the one that had only guaifenesin (100 mg/5ml). I started taking it, 5-10mls at a time (why waste energy washing that little cup 4-6 times a day when I can swig right from the bottle?).
After I'd been on it for 10-12 days, I received an email from someone asking me about taking guai for FM and had I ever done it before. I started to write my usual response to the question, her letter not being the first such I've received over the years.
My usual answer goes into how, upon being prescribed by the doctor I was seeing back in 1993-96, I took the guai tablets for 6 months. My doctor at that time didn't know about the salicylates issue, or didn't think it really mattered, as he mentioned nothing about it, and at that time (1994), the information available on the Internet was sparse and difficult to find for the neophyte I was then, and no one I talked to in the local CFS/FM support knew anything about it.
The only effect I noticed from taking the tablets was breaking out in little pimples on my face. I never felt any flare or worsening of my FM, nor any improvement. My understanding was that I would feel worse initially, and then slowly begin to feel better, the rate being approximately one month of treatment for each year I had been sick. (By 1994, I had been sick for almost 4 years, having been sick since late 1990 and diagnosed with CFS and FM in December 1991 by Jay Goldstein MD.) So, I stopped taking the guai tablets.
So, when people ask, that's what I tell them. I go on to encourage them to read the information at my site, to read Dr. St. Amand's book, and if they think it might help, to go for it.
This time, however, when I was writing my answer, it suddenly hit me that I'd been feeling increasingly crappy for several days. As I counted back, I realized that the start of the tremendous increase in pain, stiffness and general soreness of all muscle tissue (including breast tenderness worse than the worst PMS I've had through the years) had started within several days of starting the cough syrup. Nothing would touch the pain or stiffness, not my usual muscle relaxers or aspirin. Rest didn't help, nor did heat (wet or dry). What did help was skipping several doses of the cough syrup.
The interesting things with this are:
If the level of agony I'm in right now is due to the guai, perhaps the altered neurochemistry, that which resulted in the change to my sleep duration and quality, has something to do with it. Or maybe it is taking it in syrup form rather than pill form. (Then again, when I took the syrup, once or twice a year for 1-2 weeks at a stretch when battling bouts of allergy or exertion-induced bronchitis, during the years before and after the onset of CFS and FM, I never felt anything other than the loosening of the lung congestion.)
If this were easy, more doctors would be using guai with their patients, right?
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