Flu-fighting Tip: Vicks VapoRub

With the US currently in the midst of a flu epidemic, it seemed like a good time to share a couple of tips for getting some flu relief.

The first tip, as described on A Day in My Life, is good for nighttime coughing:


Rub Vick’s VapoRub into the bottom of the patient’s feet and slip on a pair of white socks. You should see (and feel) results in minutes!

One commenter suggested coconut oil mixed with eucalyptus oil as a more natural alternative remedy.

My grandmother uses “Vicks salve”, as she calls it, by the bucket, so I asked her about it last week. She nodded and said that it’s something she’s done for years, but that it hadn’t worked in a recent nasty bout of bronchitis. She thinks she may have built up an immunity to it. :)

On to the next tip. If nasal congestion is the problem, you can buy some of those Vicks Shower Disks and stand in a steamy shower, or you could make your own disks:

According to Frugal by Choice, all you need are baking soda, water, and a few essential oils to make homemade shower disks. Check out the link for the instructional nitty-gritty.

Obviously, these tips should not be mistaken for medical advice, unless they’re coming from your doctor, of course, but they would seem to do no harm.

I’ve only had the “real” flu once, and to be honest, I was so out of it I can’t remember what I did for relief. Good thing I posted this, so if I ever get it again and can make my way to the computer, I’ll know what to do! Have you ever had the flu?

Tool for Saving on Prescriptions

I have “self-funded” health insurance, which roughly translates to “crappy coverage.” (Still, I’m grateful to have it, because I’d hate to lose my house because I tripped and broke my arm.) Needless to say, I’m always on the lookout for ways to save on health costs, and I recently discovered a great resource for saving on prescription drugs.

GoodRx is a website that allows the user to enter a drug name and zip code and then displays cash prices at area pharmacies. Prices are for uninsured patients; insured patients might pay less. Take a common antibiotic, Keflex, for example, which I had to get this week:

goodrx.com search results

Two things jump out at me:
1) the HUMONGOUS difference between the Keflex brand and the generic!
2) the not insignificant difference in prices among local pharmacies for the generic. That’s a $15 spread! For a one-time prescription, that wouldn’t be awful, but for maintenance prescriptions, it would make a huge difference. In my budget, anyway.

Here’s another example: a while back, I shared a tip for saving on “combo medications”, which I’d picked up from The Budget Diet. I learned from that tip that I could save money by having my MD issue my blood pressure medication as two separate prescriptions.

That was a good savings tip on its own, but by using it in combination with GoodRx to find the best area prices I was able to cut my monthly drug costs from around $60 to $8, for a savings of over $50 each month! I may be able to keep basic cable after all! :)

Funny side story: GoodRx has a disclaimer on their site advising that they keep the prescription prices updated to the best of their ability, but that there might be variations. That makes sense, but I’ll admit I was a little disappointed when the pharmacy clerk told me my cost was $24. But since that was better than $60, I sucked it up and managed a gratitude moment. And then she gave me my 90-day supply. I hadn’t realized the doctor wrote it as a 90-day prescription and the prices she was giving me were for THREE months instead of ONE. I was so happy I was almost in tears. LOL

Thank you, GoodRX and The Budget Diet! Thanks to you, I’m getting nearly EIGHT months of medication for what I paid for ONE month before.

Now, to get rid of the prescription completely and save myself another $8! LOL

(No affiliation with either of those websites, by the way! Just sharing!)

Tips for Curing Hiccups

While cleaning up some computer folders, I stumbled onto a file titled “hiccups”, that I created after a co-worker’s morning-long case of hiccups generated a long list of suggested cures. (Yes, I know I’m weird for writing these things down.) Finding the file was quite serendipitous as I woke up this morning with hiccups!

Hiccups generally occur when the diaphragm spasms or contracts involuntarily. Common triggers are eating too quickly, overeating, swallowing air, drinking carbonated beverages, or eating certain foods. (Strange Cammy Fact: When I was obese, eating potatoes in any form always resulted in a case of the hiccups. I don’t eat potatoes very often these days, but when I do, I don’t have hiccups.) Some medical conditions can also cause hiccups, sometimes severe cases lasting for months or years!

There are almost as many methods for getting rid of hiccups as there are causes, with most centered on two schools of thought:

  • Change up your breathing. The theory, I think, is that this will change the level of carbon dioxide in the blood, and the body will focus on fixing that instead of hiccuping.
  • Stimulate the nerves in the mouth and/or throat by eating or drinking something. Either the taste sensation or the act of trying to actually swallow the “cure” distracts the brain (and diaphragm) from the hiccup nonsense.

Some folks even use both approaches at once:

hiccup cure

I have no idea if that worked, but I do have it on good authority that the following tips worked for former co-workers:

Hiccup Cures

* Hold your breath and count to ten.
* Breathe deeply and slowly into a paper bag.
* Eat a spoonful of sugar.
* Take a teaspoon of vinegar.
* Eat a spoonful peanut butter.
* Sip some hot sauce.
* Chew some dill seeds. (I wonder if eating a dill pickle would work?)
* Eat powdered cocoa directly from the spoon.
* Pull on your tongue.
* Tickle the roof of your mouth with a Q-tip.
* Put your fingers in your ears.

When I have the hiccups, my first choice is to hold my breath. If that doesn’t do it, I drink some water. If even that doesn’t work, I go for the sugar spoon. I’ve never had to go beyond that. :)

Do you have hiccups very often? Feel free to add your own cures to the list!

Foot Care Tips

Those of us who enjoy walking and running for exercise (or even power-shopping) depend on happy, healthy feet for our efforts. Here are a few suggestions for tender, loving post-exercise foot pampering:

My Morning Soak at The WSoak your feet in warm water, or use warm milk for an extra special treat, for at least 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from water, pat dry, but leave a bit damp.

Use a pumice stone to get rid of rough or hardened skin. Don’t be too harsh, though. It’s better to remove build-up a little at a time rather than try to undo serious problems all at once.

Use a natural foot scrub. You can find them commercially or make one yourself at home. One I’ve used and enjoyed in the past calls for mixing together a cup of vegetable oil and a cup of sea salt. Cut an orange into thick slices and dip into the oil/salt mixture, then rub the slices all over your feet, with special attention to the roughened areas. Rinse and dry thoroughly when finished scrubbing.

If needed, trim your toenails. Cut the nails straight across and use a file (non-metal) to eliminate any sharp edges.

Massage a generous amount of cream (peppermint or tea-tree varieties are especially good for the feet) into your feet. Brush or dab on some cuticle oil and gently push back your cuticles.

Put your feet up on a pillow for at least 15 minutes. They need the rest, plus the elevation helps with water retention and swelling.

One additional area I have to pay special attention to is my ever-dry heels. I’ve tried the frequently suggested routine of applying oil or cream at bedtime, then donning a pair of socks. That’s fine for about 20 minutes, which is about as long as I can stand to wear socks in bed. I may have found a compromise, though:

All you have to do is cut the toe part of an old pair of white socks!

Sometimes I make life so much harder than it has to be.

Shout out with any foot-pampering tips or product suggestions of your own.

Tips for Treating Poison Ivy Exposure

YIP: 03.18.09Yesterday my hair stylist mentioned that a co-worker had been suffering from a horrible poison ivy rash. I, of course, had a few tips at the ready and I shared them, even though it made me feel a little Cliff Clavin-ish before it was over. Or maybe it was just my imagination that her eyes glazed over.

Anyway, here are the tips I have for treating poison ivy and its cousins, poison sumac and poison oak:

IF YOU THINK YOU’VE BEEN EXPOSED

  • Wash the exposed area immediately with cold water. Some people swear by the addition of Dawn dishwashing detergent to this wash.
  • Carefully remove all clothing. Oils from the plant remain on the material and touching it creates a new exposure.
  • Once undressed, shower in warm water.
  • Wash your clothing in hot water. If you are especially sensitive, run it through two cycles.
  • Wash in hot water any gardening tools, sports equipment, or other “hard goods” you were using when you were exposed. Those plant oils can hang around on everything!

Note for pet owners: Urushiol, the toxic oil found on poison ivy, et al., can adhere to your pet’s fur and transfer to your skin. The woman at the hair stylist’s shop had a secondary rash on her chest and arms that corresponded exactly to her body position when she cradles her cat. If you think your pet might be “a carrier”, wash its fur in warm, soapy water.

TIPS FOR TREATING POISON IVY RASH
(none of which should be considered medical advice from a qualified professional)

Some of the commonly known treatments for relieving the itch:

  • calamine lotion
  • oral antihistamines
  • warm water & baking soda bath
  • cool water & colloidal oatmeal bath
  • cool showers
  • cool cloth compresses applied to the area

Other treatments I’ve heard about over the years (again, NOT medical advice):

  • mint toothpaste (not gel, but paste) like Colgate applied to rash
  • stick deodorant applied 3-4 times per day to the affected area
  • cool water & sea salt bath (or swimming in the ocean)
  • jewelweed
  • Vick’s VapoRub – what alternate remedy list would be complete without it?

You may have already known these, or maybe you have your own remedies to share. Feel free to sing out! If you want to explore a thousand or so home remedies, MyHomeRemedies has a topic devoted to user experience in treating poison ivy rash. Some are interesting and potentially helpful, some are funny, and others are downright scacy.

Of course, the best way to deal with poison ivy is to avoid it in the first place. For that, you need to know the enemy. Here’s a start:

For more information, check out How to Identify Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, and Poison Sumac.

You can also check Poison-Ivy.org for more information, including a “rash hall of fame”. (I’ve never felt more sympathy for a group of people in my life!)

Wishing you sunny, but rash-free days ahead!

Summer Hair Care Tips

Borrowing from Mark Twain, rumors of my (blog’s) demise have been greatly exaggerated. Posting will probably always be erratic, but I’ve decided I can live with that.

What I can’t live with is the beginnings of “summer hair” I’m experiencing. I don’t live near a beach and haven’t spent any time in the pool, but the wind and sun are doing bad things to my Brazilian-bronze-with-honey-caramel-highlights tresses. Time to switch to summer hair care mode!

summer hair care tips

Sun
The best tool for fighting sun damage is a hat! Any old hat is better than none at all, but there are hats on the market (no affiliation) that have UV protection built into the material. Check THIS LINK for tips on selecting a sun hat.

If a hat is out of the question, you can always use a styling product with UV filters. Or make your own UV hair spritz using 1 part sunscreen to 2 parts water. (Choose a paraben- and sulfate-free product if you can.)

Wind
I have oily hair, but even a few walks in windy weather have it looking like dried-out straw. All that blowing about can damage the cuticle and weaken the hair shaft. This will eventually lead to breakage. I don’t have enough hair to afford any breakage.

Fortunately, there’s an easy solution: an old-fashioned pony tail. Also, some extra conditioning time works wonders. For short hair, a little leave-in conditioner may hold hair in place.

Chlorine
Chlorine is also damaging to hair. An easy way to limit the amount of chlorine your hair absorbs is to thoroughly wet your hair with lukewarm water before you get in the pool. Hair can hold only so much water, and if it’s wet already, it won’t soak up as much chlorine. (I learned this from a lifeguard.)

Salt Water
A good way to combat the drying effects of salt water is to use leave-in conditioner before going for a swim. The conditioner will act as a buffer between the salt and your hair. Or you can use a bit of olive oil and consider it a hot-oil treatment.

I’m no hair stylist, and you can tell by my hair that I don’t visit my stylist nearly enough, but I’ve used each of these suggestions in the past with good results.

Do you have summer hair care tips to share?

Photo credit – lindawild via Flickr

Two-fer Tuesday: Bugs Be Gone!

I’ve enjoyed the warmer-than-normal weather, but it does come with a downside. I spotted my first mosquito of the season last night! Fortunately, I didn’t see any of his friends. Even more fortunately, I saw him from a distance and didn’t provide him any sustenance, unlike this poor soul who must’ve fed a whole family of mosquitoes!

mosquito bites

Today’s timely two-fer focuses on a couple of uncommon, but DEET-free, mosquito repellents!

mosquito 1
In addition to being one of my favorite scents, vanilla extract is a fairly decent mosquito repellent. Just dab it on your pulse points and you’re good to go.

 
mosquito 2
I know someone who swears mosquitoes AND ticks don’t like the smell of Vick’s VapoRub. (There’s no accounting for taste, I suppose.) I haven’t tried this myself, but I’d think it would be better used for an ‘at home’ or solo outing.

Do you have any favorite home remedies for repelling mosquitoes or other summer nuisances?

Pre-Valentine’s Day Lip Tune-up

lipsWow, one little blast of winter weather and my lips turn into sandpaper. Could it be that, despite owning 38 tubes of lip balm, I never seem to have any with me when I’m out and about? Time for some TLC, especially considering that Valentine’s Day is just around the corner.

TIPS FOR HEALTHIER LIPS

1) Wear lip balm.

2) Wear lip balm with sunscreen of SPF15, minimum.

3) Seek out lip products with alpha hydroxy acids (AHA), moisturizers, shea butter, Vitamin A and/or E, AND the sunscreen.

4a) Once a week (at least), use a soft-bristled toothbrush (I picked up a baby’s toothbrush) with a drizzle of honey to exfoliate and moisturize your lips. Brush vigorously to loosen dry skin, but not so vigorously you remove skin. Remember, the lips are thin and delicate! (I’ve also used plain old Vaseline in place of honey with good, if less tasty, results.)

4b) If you don’t have a soft toothbrush, you could also blend a teaspoon of sugar with a drop or two of honey and apply it with your finger.

5) A friend from India uses ghee (a clarified butter) as an overnight lip moisturizer.

6) If your lips have moved beyond chapped to dry and cracked, it could be your diet and not just the weather. A deficiency in B vitamins can cause or contribute to dry, cracked lips, so it might be a good time to look for healthy sources of vitamin B like broccoli, spinach, bananas, potatoes, milk, eggs, cheese, yogurt, nuts, fish, wholegrain cereals, and brown rice. Among others.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must go complete my lip therapy for the day. Feel free to sing out with your own tips for healthier lips!

Coconut Oil: Goodness Inside and Out

After last week’s post on tea tree oil, you may be thinking this is turning into an oily blog. Have no fear, I’m almost out of oils I like. :)

Millions of people have enjoyed the benefits of coconut oil for centuries, but I’m a Cammy-come-lately to the party. I knew it was used in beauty products, but I had no idea you could (and should) eat it! After all, coconut oil is a fat and fat is B-A-D for you! Right? Um, no, not necessarily. Many of the studies about dietary fat are being contested these days and besides, the coconut oil used in the old studies was not virgin coconut oil, but the refined version.

A few years ago, I began hearing that coconut oil could actually be G-O-O-D for your diet–in proper moderation, of course. It’s antiviral, antifungal and antimicrobial, and is said to be anticarcinogenic as well. Who knew? Plus, it’s a multi-tasker!

USES FOR COCONUT OIL
Inside:

  • As a replacement for other oils in cooking. Use it in solid form as a 1:1 replacement for butter or shortening, or melt it to replace liquid oils. (Possibilities: popcorn, any chocolate baked goods, or even a small dot slipped into a cup of cocoa.)
  • To aid with digestion problems. A spoonful a day should keep things moving along nicely.

Outside:

  • As a moisturizer/makeup remover. It liquifies with body heat and goes on smoothly.
  • To tame frizzy hair. After you’ve used it as a post-shower moisturizer, lightly smooth your wet hair with the oil still on your hands.
  • As a deodorant! Passionate Homemaking shared a recipe awhile back.
  • As a personal lubricant. In addition to its intended benefit in the bedroom, the antiviral nature of the oil helps fight yeast infections. (Note: don’t use with latex}

Those are just a few of the benefits of coconut oil, but I imagine there are many, many more. As I said, I’ve really only been using it for a couple of years.

Do you use coconut oil? Care to share any tips?

Behold the Power of Tea Tree Oil

tea tree oilTea tree oil has been an increasingly common ingredient in hair- and skin-care products for a few years now. Recently I’ve been seeing more references to tea tree oil as a “green” cleaning agent, which intrigued me enough to check it out.

Native to eastern Australia, tea tree oil is mostly clear and has a strong smell of camphor. Limited scientific studies indicate that the oil may have powerful antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties, something the Aboriginal people have long known. They’ve used the oil for centuries in a variety of treatments for skin and bronchial ailments, but the modern world has been slow to catch on.

Before I share possible uses of tea tree oil, I need to remind you that I’m not a doctor, a nurse, an herbalist, a naturopath, or a very good housekeeper, so proceed with caution. A few things to keep in mind at all times:
- Tea tree oil is NOT intended for ingestion! If you use it as a mouth rinse, do not swallow. (This is why it’s called a rinse.)
- Use tea tree sparingly, as in a few drops at a time. Also, it should almost always be used with another agent (carrier oil, water, soap, etc.)
- Do not use tea tree oil around the eyes or inside the ears.
- The oil should come in a dark glass bottle to prevent light from reducing its potency.
- Close the bottle tightly after use to prevent exposure to air.
- More notes on tea tree oil safety

With all that in mind, here a few possible uses for tea tree oil (hereafter known as TTO):

Hair and Skin

  • Add TTO to shampoo to clear blocked follicles, remove scalp bacteria, and eliminate dandruff. (8-10 drops per 8-oz. of shampoo.)
  • Add a few drops of TTO to a carrier oil (almond, olive, avocado, etc.) and apply to minor cuts, scrapes, skin irritations, and insect bites/stings.
  • Add a few drops of TTO to bathwater to eliminate persistent body odor. (Pause for whoosh of mothers with sons rushing to the store to buy a gallon or two of this stuff.
  • )


Medicinal Possibilities
(not meant as medical advice; see cautionary notes above and notes re: my lack of medical knowledge degree)
I found these suggested “recipes” on this site:

  • Steam Inhalations
    2 drops of tea tree oil in a bowl of steaming water. Cover head and inhale for 5-10 minutes. To relieve congestion and fight infection.
  • Massage with Tea Tree oil
    Add 3-5 drops of Tea Tree oil to 30ml of base oil and massage in for rheumatic pain. Twice daily.
  • Bathing with Tea Tree oil
    As a disinfectant measure add approximately 3-5 drops to the bath water. Helps with skin infections.
  • Immune System Treatment
    Massage once weekly with a blend of 3-5 drops of Tea Tree oil to 30ml of base oil. To help strengthen the immune system.


Household Cleaning

  • To rid dishes and clothing of bacteria and germs and to fight mold, add two or three drops of TTO to the dishwasher, the dishwater, and/or the washing machine.
  • From Parent Dish: Make a spray cleaner for countertops with 2 cups of water combined with 2 tbsp. tea tree oil in a spray bottle. [Cammy note: I'll bet you could mix this solution with kosher salt for scrubbing bathtub and bathroom tiles.]
  • More household cleansers at Frugally Sustainable.

These are all relatively new to me, but I’m especially looking forward to exploring tea tree oil’s use around the house. Just as soon as I get around to cleaning again. :)

Have you used tea tree oil for any of these purposes? Or do you have other suggestions for its use?