Bug repellents – what works?

bug repellentsConsider benefits versus risks

Last spring I went to Florida for spring break and was attacked by sand fleas. I had about a million (okay, about 70) bites over both legs, and I wrote a post about my attempts to find relief.

In short, nothing really worked other than ice packs and cool baths—cool skin decreases blood flow, which deceases the amount of histamine, which decreases the itchiness.

This year I went to Panama and gave much more thought to bug repellents.

I didn’t care about the itchiness, so much, although it’s an awful annoyance. I worried more about … Continue reading

Yoga for knee injuries

yoga for knee injuriesStrike a pose and possibly avoid surgery

I love research that shows conservative treatments—rest, diet and exercise—to be as effective (or more!) than drugs and surgery.

So when I ran across this article, “9 exercises to rehab a torn ACL without surgery,” I wanted to pass it on.

There are approximately 150,000 anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears a year, most of which need to be fixed surgically. However, new research at the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) in New York City found that about 25 percent of the ACL injured population does not need to undergo surgery because partially— and,

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First aid for concussions

first aid for concussionsRest, rest and more rest

Gone are the days of the middle school football coach telling a player to “Shake it off and get back in the game.”

Proper first aid and treatment of concussions has received a lot of attention in recent years, mostly due to the alarming increase in long-term neurological problems—memory loss and behavior changes—suffered by professional athletes and soldiers.

Concerned pediatricians and public health officials are pushing schools, youth sports organizations and parents to be more aware of head injuries in young athletes.

Childrens’ brains are still developing, after all, and are especially vulnerable to Continue reading

Home remedies for gas and bloating

home remedies gas and bloatingWhat causes gas and bloating?

In short, gas is caused by what we eat and how we eat it. Most gas is formed in our lower intestines where bacteria are busy breaking down any undigested food. Gas is the normal byproduct of this process. In fact, our bodies produce between 1 and 4 pints of gas a day!

Thankfully, most of the time this gas is passed unnoticed by us or others. At other times, however, excessive gas can be embarrassing or even painful. Anyone who has ever doubled over with colicky gas pain knows what I mean!

Gas … Continue reading

Use essential oils with caution

They are drugs, after all

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, How NOT to whiten your teeth, I enjoy Pinterest. What I don’t enjoy is the poor health advice that gets pinned and re-pinned hundreds of times over. Like putting acid (lemon juice) on your teeth and then brushing with an abrasive substance (baking soda). Bad idea if you like your enamel. But I see variations of this “recipe” pop up dozens of times every day.

Essential oils are another frequently-used ingredient on the home remedy boards. There are hundreds of home remedies using essential oils to treat … Continue reading

Save money on cough medicines

‘Tis the season

Cold and flu season is peaking.

I came down with a cold a few weeks ago (following a plane trip to a very dry climate—see my related post on Humidity for sinus health!)

And now I’ve had a cough linger for almost three weeks.

But I’m reminded again and again in various doctor blogs that viral coughs take a long, long time to go away, two and a half weeks on average, and patience is the best medicine.

As one family practice physician writes:

[Our waiting room is] a chorus of coughs, high, low, dry,

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Know the difference between cold and flu

the difference between cold and fluTamiflu makers trolling for money

We are well into flu season, and in another egregious direct-to-consumer advertising campaign, the makers of the anti-viral drug Tamiflu (Roche) are broadcasting a commercial encouraging people to—what else?—“Ask your doctor about Tamiflu.”

The thing about Tamiflu is that to have any chance of being effective, it must be prescribed within, ideally, 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.

And the commercial says this, more or less: “The flu comes on fast. Don’t wait! Call your doctor right away.”

No. Do wait.

When I first saw this commercial, I thought, “Yikes. How many people Continue reading

First aid for hypothermia

first aid for hypothermiaBaby, it’s cold outside!

Most of the headlines over the last few days have focused on the “polar vortex” weather pattern that is pushing frigid air into most of the United States.

Low temperature records are being shattered. Some states are reporting wind chills of -30°F or less.


Outside my house, in Seattle, the weather is pretty seasonal—rainy and 40°F. Lucky us.

But anyone struggling with these super cold temperatures might need a few tips for dealing with hypothermia and frostbite.


Hypothermia, or low body temperature, occurs from exposure to a cold environment (water or air). As your … Continue reading

Home remedies for headaches

Oh, my aching head!

Headaches must be one of the most common health complaints. They affect all age groups, and have any number of underlying causes. Still, most headaches are a minor annoyance at most, and go away with minimal treatment.

But judging by the amount of money spent on over-the-counter pain relievers and headache medications (about half a billion dollars a year), we must be a country in a lot of pain!

The vast majority (90%) of headaches are the tension-type, or stress, headaches.

Luckily, tension-type headaches can be treated easily with inexpensive over-the-counter medications or simple home … Continue reading

Self triage and save money

Know some resources and use them

Triage is a commonly used word in medicine, especially in overcrowded emergency departments as staff do their best to determine which patients are sickest (will soon die unless treated) and which can wait. This process of prioritizing patients for treatment is known as triage.

But triage has a broader definition: The principle or practice of allocating limited resources.

And for most of us, money is definitely a limited resource!

In 2014 more health insurance policies will come with huge deductibles, and I think this trend will continue. Health care costs are not going to … Continue reading

Save money on cold medications

save money on cold medicinesCold season is here!

It’s that time of year when we head indoors, the kids go back to school (the biggest germ pool ever), and the makers of all types of cold medications start spending big bucks on advertising.

And it works. On average, Americans spend about $3.5 billion every year on over-the-counter cold and cough remedies.

But despite spending such a huge amount of money, has anyone ever bought a magic bullet to prevent or cure the common cold?

I doubt it. In fact, scientific evidence would tell you to save your money.

Frugal Nurse tips to save

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First aid for blisters

friction blistersInfections can be expensive!

When my son was about 10 years old, he developed a nasty blister on his foot after a long hike in poorly-fitting shoes. I wasn’t aware of the blister until several days later when he came to me with what was obviously a badly infected sore between two of his toes.

I had to take him to the pediatrician to have the wound lanced (opened) and drained. He was then given a prescription for antibiotics (one of the expensive new ones, of course).

Altogether, that blister cost us about $300.

Not to mention my son’s misery. … Continue reading

First aid for nosebleeds

first aid for nose bleedsNosebleeds: A common nuisance

I don’t think I’ve met anyone who hasn’t had a nosebleed at least once in his or her life. And yet, people rarely know the best way to treat them. Lean forward or backwards? Ice or no ice?

The mucosal lining of your nose is highly vascular, which is why it bleeds so easily – and so much.

This lining is also thin and easily broken. By far, most kids (and some adults) start nosebleeds by picking their noses—gross!

Low humidity caused by indoor heating or cooling can also dry out the mucosa and cause it … Continue reading

First aid for knocked out teeth

knocked out teeth 01A common tale of knocked out teeth

A friend of mine was stepping out of her car onto the sidewalk when she tripped on the curb and, unable to catch herself in time, fell face first onto the concrete.

She sat up and immediately put her hand to her mouth; her hand came away covered in blood and she felt her front teeth hanging in their sockets. Although not hurt otherwise, she fainted at the sheer horror of having just knocked out her front teeth.

Concerned onlookers immediately called 911, and she was eventually taken to the emergency room for … Continue reading

First aid for avulsions

avulsionsWhat are avulsions?

Avulsions are wounds where a chunk of tissue (all layers of the skin) has been partially or completely torn away. An amputation is a form of an avulsion.

Avulsions can be minor, such as slamming a finger in a door and crushing the tip, or life-threatening, such as the amputation of an arm or leg in an industrial or motor vehicle accident.

As you can tell from the picture, even a minor avulsion can be pretty ghastly to look at. But if you act quickly, you might be able to save the victim’s finger, toe or … Continue reading