Photo: Dan Saelinger
Blistering Heat, stinging jellyfish, kamikaze mosquitoes, and sharp branches lurking along every hiking path—summer days are booby-trapped with minor health miseries. But there are more ways to fight back than you might think, and many can be found right in your kitchen cupboards. Here are five summer woes and their unexpected antidotes.
Tame Bug Bites With Toothpaste
A biting mosquito injects saliva into your skin, prompting your body to release histamine as part of an inflammatory response that causes itching and swelling. Fight this reaction by rubbing toothpaste into the bite: Mint varieties generally contain menthol (which calms temperature-sensitive nerves, producing a cooling sensation that helps relieve itching). You might also look for a brand that has the antibacterial ingredient triclosan (an anti-inflammatory that may reduce the size of welts).
Soothe Sunburn With Tea
If you get scorched, sponge the burn with cooled chamomile tea, which has anti-inflammatory properties. To minimize peeling, make a paste of papaya, using a blender, and apply it to the affected area; the fruit contains an enzyme called papain that helps speed the healing process by breaking down dead skin and allowing new tissue to grow. You can also help prevent burns in the first place by eating tomatoes, which contain the antioxidant lycopene (the highest concentrations are found in tomato paste, sauce, and juice). Research has found that lycopene helps the body protect itself against UV rays, possibly by neutralizing harmful free radicals.
Calm Jellyfish With Vinegar
When a jellyfish attacks, it implants thousands of tiny darts, called nematocysts, into your skin. If you're stung, fill a bucket with vinegar and soak the affected area for 15 to 30 minutes; the acetic acid in the vinegar stops the nematocysts from releasing more venom (if you don't have vinegar, Coca-Cola is a slightly less effective substitute by virtue of its phosphoric acid). Next, scrape the area with a credit card or knife edge to remove any clinging nematocysts. As with bee stings, some people are allergic to jellyfish, so seek emergency help if you experience hives or wheezing.
Cool "Prickly Heat" With Peppermint
Heat rashes happen when sweat ducts become blocked, trapping perspiration under the skin and causing a breakout of itchy, red bumps. For a two-in-one remedy, try iced peppermint tea, which you can both drink and dab onto the rash; peppermint contains cooling menthol, which reduces irritation. Pat the affected area dry and dust on some cornstarch or baby powder.
Heal Cuts With Honey
To minimize the risk of infection and scarring, clean around the wound with soap and flush with warm water, then coat it with honey and cover with a bandage; this sticky fluid contains antimicrobials and has been found to reduce inflammation.
More Advice from Dr. Oz
From the June 2011 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
We Hear You!