Smearing smashed avocado on skin stopped itch

Q. I was cured of terrible itching from mosquito bites all over my back. My Moroccan friend squashed a ripe avocado and rubbed it on the bitten area.

The relief was sweet, instant and permanent. Have you ever heard of this Old World treatment?

A. We’ve never heard of this unusual remedy. The medical literature has no clues as to why it would work, but it certainly is innovative and doesn’t seem dangerous. It could be quite messy, though, so we’re not sure how many other people will want to try it.

Readers have reported relief from the itch of a mosquito bite with various other remedies. They include application of juice from plantain leaves, sap from a bracken fern, Vicks VapoRub, Listerine, Cepacol, vanilla extract and soy sauce.

Q. I am a 32-year-old male with very fair skin and ginger hair. I never had any problem with seborrheic dermatitis until about three years ago.

That’s when I started trying to grow a beard. Wherever I was growing facial hair, my skin got itchy, red and flaky. I have tried lots of remedies, both herbal and prescription, but it just won’t go away.

I have currently shaved my face and am on a three-month fluconazole treatment as a last resort. Do you know of anything I can do to get rid of the seborrheic dermatitis?

A. Seborrheic dermatitis resembles dandruff on the face. It is an inflammatory condition that leads to redness, scaling and flakes. Like dandruff, it appears to be caused by skin-loving yeast called Malassezia (British Journal of Dermatology, Supplement S2, October 2011).

Topical antifungal treatment (clotrimazole, miconazole) can sometimes control yeast overgrowth. Oral fluconazole is indeed a last resort, since this antifungal drug can cause digestive upset, headache and dizziness, not to mention liver enzyme elevations.

One study reported good results from two months of topical hyaluronic acid gel (Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, May 2014). Some readers have had success using dandruff shampoo (Selsun Blue) to clean their faces. Other OTC products that may help include Noxzema, Listerine, Vicks VapoRub, milk of magnesia or half-strength vinegar.

You might try changing your diet to see if that helps. Some readers have found that an eating pattern low in sugars and refined flour can be helpful.

Q. I have diabetes. I started eating cinnamon on my breakfast cereal, and my fasting glucose numbers dropped significantly. That’s the only thing I was doing differently. My HbA1c reading dropped from 6.2 to 5.5, putting me back in nondiabetic range.

A. We are pleased to learn of your success with this spice. Evidence confirms that cinnamon can help control blood sugar (Annals of Family Medicine, September-October 2013).

We caution you that common (cassia) cinnamon that lowers blood sugar also may contain coumarin, a compound that can harm the liver or interact with medications.

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: Their newest book is “Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.”

2014 King Features Syndicate Inc.

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