Doctor’s pills aren’t the only remedy

Friday, October 31, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 12:53 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Antiperspirant isn’t just for preventing sweat and stink. Dab a bit on mosquito bites, and the itching and swelling will soon be history.

At least, that’s what Kenneth Haller says. Haller is an assistant professor of pediatrics at Saint Louis University School of Medicine and an active promoter of the value of home remedies.

“Many patients and parents have been convinced by drug commercials that they need drugs for every ailment,” said Haller, who is also a SLU Care pediatrician at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital. “Often old-fashioned home remedies work as well, if not better, than commercially prepared treatments to relieve a child’s aches and pains.”

Home remedy ingredients can be found in just about any cabinet, and they aren’t nearly as expensive as solutions you’d find in a pharmacy, Haller said.

Haller’s interest in home remedies began after one of his professors in medical school made a comment about the necessity of prescription drugs.

“He said for every good effect a drug has on the body there are at least 10 side effects, so be sure the drug is absolutely necessary before you prescribe it,” Haller said.

Haller has been practicing medicine in the St. Louis area for 18 years. He spent the first 10 in East St. Louis because he wanted to do inner-city work. He took a position at SLU to get involved in academia.

Here are nine useful items Haller suggests having around the house:

1) Antiperspirant: Roll it on mosquito bites to relieve itching and swelling.

“The aluminum salts in the antiperspirant help the body to reabsorb the fluid in the bug bite,” Haller said.

2) Vinegar: Use it to treat swimmer’s ear, an earache that occurs after contaminated water comes in contact with the ear. Mix the vinegar in a solution with water, put it in the ear and let it drain.

3) Baking soda: Mix it with water to create a paste to apply to bee stings.

4) Table salt: Spray a salt solution or drop it into the nose to moisten the mucus membranes and alleviate a stuffy nose. To make the solution, combine a quarter teaspoon of common NaCl, or table salt, in half a cup of water.

5) Candy: “Lollipops and Popsicles can actually treat sore throats as well as cough medicines and drops,” Haller said. “Don’t give small children hard candy that they may choke on, and be sure to have your children brush their teeth afterwards.”

6) Chicken soup: The staple cold remedy. “The broth helps to sooth the throat, the peppers in the soup open the sinuses to ease breathing, and it is water-based which helps hydrate the body,” Haller said.

7) Ace wrap: “It can be used for elbow, knee, or ankle sprains, and is more versatile and affordable than area-specific compression wraps,” Haller said.

8) Humidifier: Humidifiers promote health during the winter months by keeping the mucus membranes and the throat moist.

“Its important to change the water every 24 hours and not to overdo it,” Haller said. “Most humidifiers (that cost) $30 or more have a hygrometer to measure the humidity in the room. Fifty percent is ideal, but too much humidity can promote mold growth and actually lead to colds instead of preventing them.”

9) Hot and cold packs: The cold pack reduces swellings in the first 24 to 36 hours. The hot pack increases circulation and accelerates healing after the 36 hours.

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