'Crazy' cures that work
PSSSST! Over the back fence, your neighbor tells you about an ingenious, easy, drug-free treatment for a common malady, and she swears it's legit. You nod, but you're mentally rolling your eyes, thinking for sure her "cure-all" is bunk. Still, every once in a while a silly-sounding cure actually works wonders.
1. To remove warts: duct tape
The main current medical treatment for warts is cryotherapy (aka freezing) with liquid nitrogen, which smarts. According to a study published in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, applying duct tape is actually smarter. The study was done on children, and though further research on adults has yet to replicate the findings, Dr. Moyad nevertheless recommends the duct- tape method. "It’s darn cheap and simple to do," he says. Experts don’t know exactly why the cure is effective, but Dr. Moyad theorizes that it has to do with the tape’s ability to irritate the skin, which stimulates the body’s immune system to attack the wart virus.
What to do: Apply a piece of tape about the size of the wart and leave it on for three to four days (a week if it’s a child’s wart). Then pull it off, wash the area with soap and water and apply a new piece of tape until the wart is gone.
When to see a pro: If the wart is painful, changes color or interferes with your daily routine. Or if the duct tape doesn’t work after six to eight weeks.
2. To treat head lice: skin cleanser
It’s a call every mother dreads-but if your tyke develops those pesky parasites, try skin cleanser. A study in Pediatrics found the over-the-counter cleanser Cetaphil to be 96 percent effective in curing head lice. Essentially, says Dr. Moyad, this method suffocates the lice.
What to do: Apply the skin cleanser to the child’s dry hair, comb out the excess, then blow-dry hair, allowing the lotion to dry on the scalp in a shrink-wrap-like layer and leave it on overnight. In the morning, shower out with regular shampoo. Do this once a week for three weeks. (For full details, go to www.Nuvoforheadlice.com.)
When to see a pro: If after three weeks you’re still finding lice, see your child’s pediatrician.
3. To prevent poison ivy: liquid dish soap
What began as a beautiful walk in the woods turned ominous when you ran into a patch of poison ivy. But instead of waiting for the "inevitable" ugly red rash, use plain old dish detergent to avert the itch. In a study published in the International Journal of Dermatology, researchers gathered subjects exposed to poison ivy, then rubbed liquid dish soap on the affected locations for 25 seconds. They were able to prevent a reaction in almost half of the volunteers and reduced inflammation and blistering in the others by 56 percent. "It’s a no-brainer," says Dr. Moyad. The soap strips the skin of the plant oil that’s responsible for causing the rash.
What to do: Put dish soap on a clean washcloth or rag and apply to the exposed areas as soon as you can.
When to see a pro: If you do develop poison ivy, see your doctors if the rash springs up near sensitive areas such as the eyes or genitals, is very extensive or isn’t improving after several days’ treatment with over-the-counter medicines.
4. To treat cold sores: witch hazel
They’re ugly, they’re embarrassing and they show up out of nowhere. What to do about cold sores? Try Witch-hazel, which contains anti-inflammatory tannins. "When the cold-sore virus is replicating, you see an exaggerated inflammatory response, so your lips can get quite big," says Dr. Moyad, who suggests applying witch hazel to reduce the swelling.
What to do: The minute you feel the tingling, start gently dabbing witch hazel on the cold sore with a cotton ball or swab several times a day.
When to see a pro: If you see no improvement after a week, or if you’re getting cold sores more frequently than usual.
5. To prevent blisters: antiperspirant
Blisters form from friction, and moist skin creates more friction than dry. Keeping the sweat at bay can help avert those aching eruptions. In a study of 667 Army cadets published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, only 21 percent of those who prepped their feet with antiperspirant for three to five days before a long hike developed blisters, compared with almost half of those who’d used a placebo.
What to do: Before any vigorous activity, apply antiperspirant all over the feet (pay close attention to the sides). Note: If you’re using a roll-on product, don’t use the same one you use on your underarms.
When to see a pro: If you do develop blisters, see a doctor if they become blue or black (a sign that pooled blood is present or that the area is getting insufficient oxygen), or if the pain interferes with your daily routine.