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Home Remedies

Our parents, grandparents and friends often offer their ideas about how to treat certain problems, sometimes they may seem outlandish.  Here’s a little summary of a few remedies that work and a few you shouldn’t try.

REMEDIES THAT WORK:
Honey for cough and sore throat—a study a few years ago showed that honey improved night time cough better than no treatment or dextromethorphan, like in Robitussin DM.  Honey can coat and soothe a sore throat.  Some people add lemon to honey to help break down mucous.  No honey for babies under 2 years old due to risk of infant botulism.
Yogurt for certain diarrheas and yeast infections—yogurts with live active cultures can help replace the “good bacteria” that are killed off by antibiotics and therefore help prevent or lessen diarrhea caused by antibiotics.  It can help shorten the duration of some bacterial and viral diarrheas.  Yogurt may help prevent oral and diaper area yeast infections.  Look for the “live and active cultures” seal on the container because if it’s been heat treated the bacteria are killed.
Ginger for nausea—Ginger ales usually are artificially flavored and contain no ginger.  Use fresh ginger root from the produce section boiled in water to make your own ginger tea or candied ginger.
Vaseline for lice—Not advised for long hair.  Key is to massage it thoroughly into hair and scalp and comb thoroughly with lice comb.  Repeat daily for 5-7 days.  The problem is that it is difficult to wash out of hair.
Caffeine containing drinks for headaches—helps pain meds like tylenol act faster that’s why you’ll find caffeine in many headache meds. Many of the HA meds have approx. 65mg of caffeine, coffee 100mg, Mountain Dew and Pepsi One each have 55mg, but other caffeinated sodas have far less caffeine.  The flip side is that if you drink a lot of caffeine daily when you miss a day of caffeine you can get headaches.
Cranberry juice for urinary tract infections—cranberry contains a compound that prevents bacteria from attaching to the bladder wall so maybe helpful for prevention or at very earliest signs—not for full fledged urinary infection.  Most of the cranberry juices on the store shelves are juice mixes and you need to drink a few glasses per day.  Or can take cranberry pills.
Chammomile tea for colic, gas, bloating and anxiety—chammomile has anti-spasm effects on the intestines.  Also, it reaches the brain for a soothing, anxiety easing effect.  Make sure to get caffeine-free chammomile tea.
Gargling with salt water for sore throat or gums—salt draws water out of inflammed tissue to help decrease the inflammation.
 
REMEDIES WITH MIXED EFFECTIVENESS:
Melatonin for insomnia—although some people report that melatonin helps them sleep, there is no scientific evidence that melatonin is more effective than placebo (sugar pill).  It has low risk of toxicity so it wouldn’t hurt to try it.
Meat tenderizer for fire ant bites or bee stings—McCormick’s tenderizer, make sure it’s not seasoned because it contains pepper. Mix 1 part tenderizer and 4 parts water to make a paste; rub it on with soaked cotton ball for a few minutes. It works to break down proteins in ant venom to help lessen the venom’s effect.  A dermatology journal showed no difference in symptoms with or without tenderizer used.  Since there’s minimal risk of side effects it wouldn’t hurt to try this.

REMEDIES THAT DON’T WORK OR MAY BE HARMFUL:
Burns—butter
Lice—mayonnaise may turn rancid and smell. 
Cuts—hydrogen peroxide damages healthy tissue surrounding the cut. 
Fever—alcohol baths because can be absorbed through skin and cause toxicity.

Gina Montion, MD, FAAP

Posted in Blog on August 28th, 2010