Q. I had not had a chigger bite for more than 50 years, so I wasn’t sure what the bites were when I got some last year. I tried the old remedies, including nail polish and calamine lotion, to no avail.
This year, I knew that when I worked in my garden, I would probably get chigger bites again. Sure enough, the bites itched like crazy.
I read somewhere that toothpaste on a blemish helped it heal. In desperation, I daubed it on the bites, and the itching stopped. I reapplied several times, and the bites went away.
I recently stepped into my little garden knowing I would probably get a chigger bite. I did, but once again I applied toothpaste, and there was no itching. It’s a little messy, but I will take that over the intense itching any time.
A. Thanks for this interesting remedy. We have heard from people who have used toothpaste on minor burns, yellow-jacket stings or itchy fungus under the breasts. This is the first report we have had that toothpaste might ease the itching from chigger bites.
Dermatologists often prescribe strong corticosteroid creams or gels to calm the itch. If toothpaste works for you, so much the better.
Q. I had a problem with toenail fungus and asked my doctor for a cure. He just said not to worry, as the nails would eventually fall off.
I realized that professional nail technicians in beauty shops must deal with this problem all the time, so I asked my manicurist to recommend something.
She told me to buy 100 percent pure Australian tea tree oil and paint the affected nail once or twice a day. It kills the fungus. I used it for about six months because toenails take so long to grow in. The fungus is definitely gone!
I have since read that tea tree oil is a natural astringent and good for minor cuts, insect bites and athlete’s foot.
A. Tea tree oil is extracted from an Australian tree called Melaleuca alternifolia. Research has demonstrated that this herbal oil has antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal activity. Another reader shared this testimonial:
“I am a massage therapist and have to wash my hands repeatedly throughout the day. As a result, my fingertips split and become very painful.
“I find that applying tea tree oil to the splits helps them heal fast, in a few days versus much longer when just trying to treat with moisturizers.”
Q. I read about rubbing yellow mustard on a leg cramp to ease the pain, but eating a teaspoon of it works great without the mess. I swallow one teaspoon at bedtime to prevent leg cramps. If I get a cramp anyway, I just eat another spoonful.
A. We have never advocated smearing mustard on leg cramps, though this mysteriously did appear in a few newspapers. The standard recommendation is to swallow a teaspoonful, as you suggest. Some people find mustard distasteful at bedtime or in the middle of the night.
In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of this newspaper or email them via their Web site: www.PeoplesPharmacy.com. Their newest book is “Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.”
2013 King Features Syndicate, Inc.