Block poison ivy oil before exposure, or wash thoroughly after it

People's Pharmacy

Health & Fitness

July 18, 2004|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon,King Features Syndicate

My mother-in-law is incredibly sensitive to poison ivy. A walk in the woods is guaranteed to end in disaster. Is there anything she can use that would either prevent an outbreak or speed recovery? The itchy, red blisters drive her crazy.

If she can't avoid poison ivy, the next best thing is to use a barrier cream before exposure. Products such as IvyBlock or Stoko Gard can keep the irritating poison ivy oil from penetrating the skin.

After accidental contact, cleansing products such as Tecnu or Zanfel can help. However, simply washing with soap and water also works. One reader offered the following:

"We were looking at some land with a seller, wading knee-deep through poison ivy in shorts. To say that I was scared is an understatement.

"I was persuaded to wash immediately and thoroughly with Dawn dish detergent. Instead of my legs being covered with poison ivy, I only got a few small blisters near one knee, which cleared up quickly. The thing is to wash off as soon as possible."

Old-timers claim that jewelweed leaves, crushed so the juice runs out, can counter poison ivy if applied near the time of exposure. Others say that witch hazel or vodka, applied directly to the itchy spots, can help speed healing.

I have read that eating walnuts and almonds will lower cholesterol. Will cashew nuts do the same thing?

Studies show that nuts, especially walnuts and almonds, can lower cholesterol. Animal research suggests that cashews might also be beneficial in this regard. Though cashews are actually the seed of a tropical fruit, they are high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat.

My best friend has the ugliest toenails I have ever seen. When we swim together, I cannot help but stare at his crumbly, unhealthy nails. I know he is self-conscious about this, but he cannot take oral prescription medicine because he once had hepatitis.

I have read in your column that there are other ways to treat nail fungus.

There are several topical approaches to controlling nail fungus, but they all require a great deal of patience and persistence. Tea tree oil has anti-fungal activity and works for some people. Others report success with dilute vinegar foot baths (1 part vinegar to 2 parts water).

Twice-daily applications of Listerine or Vicks VapoRub might also help clear the infection. If all else fails, a prescription-strength urea cream (40 percent) can dissolve the infected nail under medical supervision.

I've been told I should drink pomegranate juice because of its high antioxidant content. Is this just a health myth?

Animal research has shown that pomegranates might help prevent the buildup of plaque in arteries. The juice also contains compounds that can help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of blood clots. One reader reports that eating pomegranates lowered her cholesterol.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019, or e-mail them from their Web site, www.peoplespharmacy.org.

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