DON'T DRINK AND DIVE:

Drunk swimming can be just as fatal as drunk driving.

The Health Insurance News quotes a report from the Navy Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program suggesting that of the 8,000 estimated drownings each year, some 5,600--or 70 percent--are related to alcohol.

Dr. Barbara Hartmann, director of the Navy Program and a researcher at the University of Arizona, warns that beach or poolside drinking should be no more than one can of beer or one glass of wine an hour.

"People," she says, "will dive into an area they wouldn't otherwise dive into if they weren't a little tipsy."

She also warned against "playful" dunking: "We tend to think things are funny when we've had too much to drink, and horseplay has been the cause of many water-related accidents and deaths."

MORE ON TAKING PILLS:

Dr. Peter Lamy, director of Institutional Pharmacy Programs at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, adds these caveats to the July 16 Healthtalk discussion of which medicines to take with what and when.

* Never try to give a pill to a person who is lying down. The person could choke. Help them sit up first.

* Don't crush "long-acting" pills. They are usually made up of tiny coated bits of medicine, with the coatings of different thicknesses. The medicine is absorbed slowly over a given period of time, as the coatings dissolve--some more slowly than others. If the pill is crushed, the patient gets the whole amount at one fell swallow. It's almost a guaranteed overdose.

* If you've been taking heavy doses of Vitamin C and are hospitalized for some reason, be sure to tell your doctor about the vitamins. You could have symptoms caused by the sudden cut-off of the vitamin, and the doctors may mistake them for something else. The treatment could then be useless or even dangerous.

* The same thing goes for alcohol. Nobody wants to embarrass you, but if you don't tell the health professionals what you drink and how much, you're asking for all sorts of mistakes in your treatment.

* When instructions say take a pill with water, it means a full, 8-ounce glass, not a sip.

* When instructions say before or after meals, they mean two full hours before or after unless otherwise specified.

* If you're taking more than one kind of medicine, put different numbers of sticky paper on them so you can tell, virtually in your sleep, what you are taking--as in one strip for the heart medicine, two for the headache.

If medicine doesn't work, says Lamy, the trouble may not lie in the pill, but in the communication between doctor or pharmacist and patient.

For more information on medicines write: Dr. Peter Lamy, School of Pharmacy, University of Maryland at Baltimore, 636 Lombard St., Baltimore, Md. 21201.

PINCH THE SALT:

The Center for Science in the Public Interest has produced a poster with an at-a-glance listing of the sodium content in some 250 name-brand foods.

Salt (sodium-chloride) intake has been linked to hypertension and, in any case, most scientists agree that Americans consume way more than they need.

According to CSPI, most people need only a few hundred milligrams a day, and most Americans consume between 4,000 and 10,000. Pregnant women should check with their doctors, but most of the rest of us should keep salt intake between 1,100 and 3,300 mg a day.

The new chart should help salt-watchers.

For example:

Table wine: 5 mg. per 3 1/2 ounces.

Or:

McDonald's Quarter Pounder Sandwich with Cheese: 1,236 milligrams.

Or:

American Cheese: 810 mg. per 2 ounces.

The Sodium Scoreboard is available at $3 ($6, laminated) from CSPI, Box 3099, Washington D.C. 20010. Bulk prices available on request.

RHEUMATOID UPDATE

Volunteers for the George Washington University study, involving the use of thymosin in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, have been phoning the GWU rheumatology clinic by the hundreds. "There is a backlog of calls to return" in response to a July 9th Healthtalk column, says clinical research coordinator Christine Richardson, "but we will get back to everyone at some point."

Richardson emphasizes that only volunteers with diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis should contact the clinic for possible inclusion in the two-year study. Eligibility requirements include a telephone interview, a series of screening visits and being able to report to the clinic twice a week, every week for six months.