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.
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.
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.
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.