Old wives' cures for common health complaints that actually work

By | November 5, 2018

Two in five mums use old wives’ treatments to treat their kids’ ­ailments, research shows – such as putting raw meat on a wart or ­verruca, rubbing a wedding ring on a stye, or using breast milk to clear up conjunctivitis.

But not all tricks are urban myths – and here are 13 with a solid track record for effectiveness…

Home cure: Duct tape

Use it for: Warts

Covering warts with duct tape works better than freezing them off, according to a study published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

In the study, the duct tape zapped 85% of warts after two months, compared with 60% with the freezing method.

Clean the area then cut a piece of duct tape slightly bigger than the wart, and stick it on firmly.

Every three days take the tape off, file down dead skin with a pumice stone or nail file, and repeat until the wart disappears.

Home cure: Vodka

Use it for: Smelly feet

If taking your kids’ socks off causes houseplants to wilt, wipe them with a vodka-soaked dishcloth. It’s the same principle as rubbing alcohol.

Alcohol is antiseptic and drying, so it destroys odour-causing fungus.

Listerine Mouthwash

Who knew Listerine mouthwash is great for treating blisters?

Home cure: Listerine

Use it for: Blisters

The classic breath freshener – and powerful antiseptic – can also do a number on blisters when kids are wearing in their new school shoes.

Moisten a cotton ball with Listerine and dab it on the blister three times a day.

Home cure: Banana peel

Use it for: Bruises

On top of many other uses – including whitening teeth and easing the pain of ­haemorrhoids – the humble banana can also heal bruises in half the time.

Apply a ripe peel to the bruise, tie it on with a bandage or tape, and leave overnight.

The manganese, magnesium and potassium helps blood flow through the vessels under the skin, flushing away the coloured toxins.

Home cure: Torch

Use it for: Splinters

Skin is translucent, so shining a torch lets you see the angle the splinter is at and how deep it is, says Simon James, first aid trainer with the St John ­Ambulance.

Do it in a dark room, place a torch directly against the skin about 1cm on the other side of the splinter, get your eyes down to skin level and pull it out with sterilised tweezers.

The liquid is produced by pressing whole olives, a traditional tree crop of the Mediterranean Basin

Olive oil can soften ear wax and end annoying aches

Home cure: Olive oil

Use it for: Earache

Ear drops sold at pharmacies can soften wax, but many contain ­household staples such as olive oil or bicarbonate of soda, says GP Dr Fiona Sankey.

“Olive oil can do the job just as well, though don’t do this if you have a ­perforated eardrum because it could cause infection.”

Again, consider using bicarbonate of soda – dissolve half a teaspoon in a beaker of water before inserting it into the ear with an eye dropper, which can be bought from a chemist. ­Stubborn build-up may need cleaning by your GP.

Home cure: Ice cubes

Use it for: Toothache

If the pain is throbbing but the tooth isn’t tender, the nerve through the tooth could be infected.

As heat can worsen inflammation, ice might help reduce that swelling and relieve pain.

While minor infections may clear by ­themselves, you’ll need to see your dentist for ­treatment to prevent the pain becoming continuous.

Don’t put aspirin, clove oil or anything else against the gum – it will probably burn it.

Home cure: Sudocrem

Use it for: Burns and spots

Many associate Sudocrem with treating or preventing nappy rash, says Dr Hady Bayoumi, a consultant ­dermatologist at the Spire Bushey Hospital.

“But it can be used for all types of skin issues,” he says.

The cream is an ­antiseptic, inhibiting infection and keeping bacteria out of the wound.

“It’s also good for cuts, spots, minor burns, chilblains, minor bedsores and sunburn.”

A cheaper option for spots is to make a paste with ­bicarbonate of soda and apply to the affected area. It draws out ­moisture to speed healing.

Home cure: Ground pepper

Use it for: Cuts

Studies show a component of black ­pepper, called piperine, has strong ­antibacterial ­properties, which would ­suggest it is helpful for healing.

It also forms a crust over a cut to keep it clean.

“Adding ground pepper to small cuts helps blood coagulate for faster healing, while simultaneously killing lingering bacteria and reducing scarring,” says Cathy Wong, author of The Inside- Out Diet.

An onion can reduce the swelling from painful wasp stings

Home cure: Onion

Use it for: Wasp stings

When a wasp stings, no doubt your child will let you know.

Rubbing a slice of onion on it will reduce the swelling and speed up the recovery time.

There are enzymes in fresh-cut onion that help break down the compounds in a sting that cause inflammation.

Home cure: Vinegar

Use it for: Swimmer’s ear

Swimming in pools on holiday often means bacteria-ridden water entering the ear canal – and children’s ears are more susceptible than adults because the opening is bigger.

Vinegar kills the bacteria that cause swimmer’s ear.

Dilute white vinegar with an equal amount of distilled water and, using an eye dropper, put three drops in the ear three times daily.

Home cure: Ginger

Use it for: Travel sickness

Motion sickness is more common in children aged three to 12.

At least two of the active constituents of ginger reduce the amount of gastric juices produced and lower acidity of the stomach which will help fight nausea.

Suck on a little slice of fresh ginger at the first signs of queasiness.

Home cure: Sugar cubes

Use it for: Hiccups

Hiccups are caused by uncontrolled spasms in the ­diaphragm.

It is thought sugar somehow stimulates the vagus nerve – which leads from the brain through to the diaphragm – to stop muscles contracting.

We still don’t know why hiccups occur or why they can be cured in odd ways, such as a fright or holding your breath.

The theory about why sugar works is while you swallow, you hold your breath, which would stop the reflex spasm briefly.

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