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Health hacks for help on a budget

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Drugs, both prescription and over the counter, can be very expensive, and may cause side effects.  Many of my patients are pleased to learn there are some economical options with products that they may already have in their home.

Here are a few examples, straight from your local grocery store:

Baking soda: For generalized itching, including the healing from sunburn, put a few big spoonfuls of baking soda in a lukewarm bath.

 

For smaller areas, use “soda-soaks” with a bowl of water and soda powder, and use it to wet a towel to cover the involved area. Sit in front of a fan or open window breeze, and the red itchy skin will feel much better in minutes. Use cotton ovals to apply over swollen eyelids.

For small spots, like insect bites, you can make a paste of mainly soda and a few drops of water, and apply as needed.

Salt: Just ordinary table salt will do. In solution with room temperature water, it has great curative powers for inflammation. You may remember a school science demonstration where a potato is placed in a pot of extremely salty water. The water inside the potato is relatively salt-free, so it rushes across the membrane (skin) to help dilute the overly salty water in the pot. Give it a little time, and the potato starts to shrivel like a prune.

The same thing happens across the membrane of the cells in a sore throat, or across the cells of the skin during a bite, burn, abrasion, or infection. For sore throats, do not use this mouthwash more than a couple of times a day, or you can change the pH of your mouth, and possibly engender a secondary infection, ending up with a blue or white tongue.  

For severe sore throats, try to gargle several times a day with enough salty water to provide three or four mouthfuls. Gargle for as long as you can, spit it out and repeat. You can rinse immediately after with regular water, and you can stop as soon as your throat is no longer sore.  

For inflamed skin, use salt water in a bowl, and soak a small towel or, for small areas, cotton balls or ovals. Then squeeze out excess moisture, and lay the towel or cotton against the skin.  

Coconut oil: One of nature’s great natural healers, coconut oil can replace many items in your first aid kit.  

It can serve as a moisturizer. Coconut oil starts out looking greasy, like Vaseline. But, unlike petroleum products, the underlying skin sucks up the coconut oil quickly. It’s a great choice for right after the shower. It’s good for your face, nails and even hair/scalp. A small container can also make a good portable lip balm.

Coconut oil is also a great mouthwash. A spoonful held in the mouth until it melts is an excellent trick to whiten teeth. This “pulling” technique simply involves swishing the oil around your teeth for as long as you can, then spitting it out. Not only is this a great whitening trick, but the oil has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, killing many of the germs that can cause gum disease and bad breath.  

Try it as a wound dressing. Instead of antibiotic ointments that have a Vaseline base, you can use a dab of coconut oil over an abrasion, scab or scratch, or even to cover sutures after the first dressing change.  

Other uses for coconut oil include: removing makeup at the end of the day, as a shaving cream and, for babies, it makes a great treatment for diaper rash, instead of using cortisone-based creams every time.

Naturally, the above are intended as options for self-help, not for self-diagnosis. Please see your doctor or walk-in clinic for a more specific assessment.

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