niacinFriday at about noon, Muri and I were making lunch at home, getting ready to run a few errands together.   We were having several days of unseasonably early Santa Ana conditions when hot winds drive the temperatures into the nineties and hundreds.  I was ninety-seven outside and I could see that the flowers in the yard were wilting, so I went outside to water them.  It only took a few minutes but by the time I got inside, I was sweating profusely.  But that wasn’t all.  My head and shoulders were suddenly hot, as if I’d been granted an instantaneous sunburn, and my skin was tingling.  I could feel it spreading lower on my body as the sensation became more uncomfortable on my head and shoulders.  Trying to stay calm, I went into the bathroom and splashed cold water on my head and arms, which momentarily reduced the heat but my arms were now tingling.  I could see in the mirror that my face and arms were bright pink.  It was starting to scare me, so I told Muri about it.  She reads me pretty well after 45 years of marriage and could tell I was on the front end of a panic attack.   Not knowing what else to do, I sat down at the computer and Googled sudden flushing and tingling, and within  a few minutes determined I was having a severe niacin flush.

Now, a few weeks ago, I told a friend that I was having trouble with fatigue and he recommended taking niacin.  I am hardly a health nut but I normally do some research before I take any medication or supplement.   But for whatever reason, this time, I didn’t.  I’d been taking it sporadically with breakfast without any side effects for a while but Friday, I took it mid-morning without food.   Perhaps it was the time spent in the hot sun and heat that kicked things off.   Whatever the reason, within 15 minutes, I was flushed all over and my legs tingled to the point of itching.  The Livestrong website, which described my symptoms perfectly, told me that although the symptoms were uncomfortable, they were harmless.  It also suggested they’d subside in about an hour.  According to WebMD, 35 mg is the Daily Reference Intake for niacin … the tablet I took was 500 mg.  Several articles suggested that feeling a slight flush was a good thing.  A severe flush was not.   Several articles suggested gradually increasing my niacin dose so as to be able to take larger doses without a severe flush.  I won’t be doing that.   I think I’ll be getting my niacin from natural sources like fish, peanuts and legumes.

Unfortunately, it’s really easy to say to myself, It’s just a vitamin, or maybe, It’s all natural, then fail to consider dosage or side effects. And as I said in Just the Facts, Ma’am, it can be difficult to find hard facts on supplements on line.  But if I’d taken the time to look up niacin, I’ve have saved myself some discomfort … and the Xanax necessary to head off a panic attack.   Even at sixty-eight, I sometimes have to live and relearn.

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2 Comments on “Flushed”

  1. cherperz Says:

    OK…you officially scared the crap out of me. You were flushed, sweating, tingling AND you sat down to look it up on the Internet. Far be it from me to slap your hand…and I totally understand I should mind my own business…but aren’t those the same signs that indicate “GET TO A DOCTOR ASAP!”

    I was feeling fatigued for weeks but no other apparent symptoms, and decided to go to my doctor for a full panel blood draw. I have a Vitamin D deficiency which has me on a prescription for 12 weeks.

    I am a little wary about supplements. I take a daily vitamin and that is the only thing I take. No prescriptions or anything….well except for the 12 wk Vitamin D. I prefer to eat healthy and exercise diligently but if I do have to take supplements down the road, I want to see on my lab report the actual numbers. Too much or too little of anything scares me.

    • oldereyes Says:

      Thanks for your concern … you may be right. My tendency toward panic attacks has led me to the hospital a number of times for nothing but anxiety, so I tend to do a little research first. Since I found the niacin flush almost instantly and it described exactly what was happening, I felt OK staying home. And Muri was monitoring me. I’ll tell you, I’m a lot more leery of supplements today.

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