Everyday Health Issues
You're standing at the kitchen counter cutting the juicy watermelon you just hauled home from the supermarket. You can't wait to sink your teeth into it and... ouch! You sink the knife into your finger instead. Wincing in pain, you have to make a split-second decision: Bandage or cold water? In many cases, what you do (or don't do) first matters most. Knowing the right course of action will help you make the best choice. Whether it's treating a sunburn or stopping a bloody nose, read through for quick ways to treat common ailments. Photo credit: Thinkstock
BEST WAY TO...Treat poison ivy and bug bites
That long walk in the woods gave you a lot more than an appreciation of nature: It left you with a terrible, itchy rash. Photo credit: iStock
· CONTAIN IT. The oil on the plants' leaves and stems-whether it's poison ivy, oak or sumac-causes you to itch. When you scratch, the oil-and the rash-spread. Wash any area that might have touched the plant with soap and water ASAP.
· CALM THE ITCHING. For mild cases, use an over-the-counter 1% hydrocortisone cream and take Benadryl or another oral antihistamine, says Elizabeth Tanzi, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. (This works for itchy bug bites, too.) "A bad case of poison ivy, oak or sumac will almost always require a prescription from the doctor," she says. Most important? Don't scratch! It can lead to an infection.
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BEST WAY TO... Take the sting out of cuts and scrapes
· KEEP IT CLEAN. First, wash the cut with soap and water. Don't pour hydrogen peroxide or any other antiseptic directly on the cut because it can further damage the skin. Photo credit: Thinkstock
· COVER IT. Applying a bandage will help stop the bleeding and keep the cut moist to minimize scarring. Leaving the area exposed to "get some air" dries skin and slows the healing process.
SEE A DOCTOR IF... You can see muscle, bone or tendon. Get treatment within six hours.
BEST WAY TO... Prevent Lyme disease
Experts are predicting an increase in cases, since this year's unseasonably warm weather countrywide has extended how long ticks will be active. So now's not the time to have an oops-I-forgot-the-bug-spray moment.
· COVER UP. If you'll be spending time in grassy and wooded areas where ticks tend to be, your best defense is to limit exposed skin by wearing long-sleeve shirts and tucking pants into your socks.
· USE A REPELLENT. Sprays that contain the chemical DEET work best, but be sure to follow the directions on the label carefully. It's best to spray the repellent on clothes, not directly on skin (especially with children).
· DO DAILY CHECKS-AND MAKE THEM A TEAM EFFORT. The bugs can be incredibly small-sometimes literally the size of a pencil point-and they love to hide in and around warm, hard-to-see places, like your armpits, ears, belly button, the back of your knees, your hairline and waist. Check these areas meticulously and have a family member do a cross-check as a backup in case you missed anything.
· REMOVE ANY TICKS ASAP. It usually takes 24 to 48 hours for an infected tick to transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, so the sooner you remove it, the better. Using pointed tweezers, grasp the head of the tick as close to your skin as you can, then pull it out in a swift, firm motion. Don't twist or jerk the tick as you pull, and never grasp the tick lower down on its body, or the body may separate and release bacteria into your skin.
Slanted tweezers work well for splinters, but pointed ones are best for taking out a tick.
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BEST WAY TO... Prevent swimmer's ear
A main cause of this condition is water getting trapped in your ear canal, which creates a breeding ground for bacteria. Photo credit: iStock
· Remove the water. Mix 1 tsp rubbing alcohol with 1 tsp white vinegar. Using a dropper, put one drop in each ear after every swim to flush out any lingering water. The alcohol-vinegar mixture helps prevent bacterial growth.
BEST WAY TO... Remove a splinter
All that barefoot walking and you're bound to get a painful splinter at least once a summer. Photo credit: iStock
· USE THE RIGHT TOOL. Tweezers that are slanted at the ends make it easier to grasp the splinter and pull it out in one piece. "Don't use tape or glue-neither works well, and can cause the splinter to break off and go deeper into your skin," says Mark Melrose, MD, an emergency physician at Urgent Care Manhattan in New York City. And do it right away: Over time, wood softens and becomes more difficult to remove in one piece. Once the splinter is out, dab on antibacterial ointment and cover the area with a bandage.
SEE A DOCTOR IF... You can't reach the splinter with tweezers or part of it is stuck. It won't just come out by itself, and it's more likely to get infected.
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BEST WAY TO... Cure the hiccups
Caught up in conversation at lunch with a friend you haven't seen in ages, you start eating while talking. Then suddenly-thanks to swallowing too much air or not taking enough breaths between bites-you have an embarrassing case of the hiccups. Photo credit: iStock
· TRY THE THREE-BREATHS TRICK. First, take the deepest breath you can and hold it for 10 seconds. Then, without breathing out, breathe in again and hold that for 5 more seconds. Finally, take in a bit more air and continue to hold your breath for a final 5 seconds. Then breathe normally. "We think the technique works because it calms your diaphragm, which prevents the involuntary spasms that cause the hiccup," explains Luc Morris, MD, an assistant professor at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, who tested this method on 30 patients. (It worked nearly every time!)
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BEST WAY TO... Soothe a minor burn
You absentmindedly reach for the searing-hot pot handle with your bare hand. Now what? Photo credit: Thinkstock
· COOL IT. Immediately put your hand under cool running water and keep it there for no longer than 10 minutes. This cools skin and stops lingering heat from worsening the burn.
· SKIP THE ICE. "The protective layer of your skin has already been removed, and exposing it to another extreme temperature or soaking it in water for too long will remove more of that barrier," Dr. Melrose explains.
· PROTECT AGAINST INFECTION. Afterward, apply an antibacterial ointment and cover the area with a bandage.
SEE A DOCTOR IF...The burn is larger than the size of a credit card, is on your hand or face or has caused large and/or a lot of blisters. And go within the first few hours.
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BEST WAY TO... Avoid heatstroke
Heatstroke happens when your body temperature becomes dangerously high, which can cause damage to your brain and other organs. The very young and the very old are most susceptible, because their bodies are more heat-sensitive and they often forget to drink extra water. Photo credit: iStock
· STAY HYDRATED. "The top three recommendations are drink, drink, drink," says Dr. Melrose. Plain water or sports drinks are both good choices. Skip caffeine and alcohol on very hot days-they dehydrate you even more, which makes it harder for your body to regulate its temperature.
· KEEP COOL. Avoid exercise or outdoor activity during the hottest part of the day (usually about 10 A.M. until 2 P.M.) if the temperature is expected to go past 90°F.
BEST WAY TO... Treat a sunburn
Despite your best intentions, you ended up looking like a lobster. Photo credit: iStock
· STOP THE INFLAMMATION. Take a standard dose of ibuprofen (follow package directions), which works best to target the inflammation, says Dr. Tanzi.
· SOOTHE YOUR SKIN. Add 1 cup uncooked oats to a cool bath and soak in it for 15 minutes. Instead of toweling off, let your skin air-dry and apply a moisturizer while your skin is still damp. Lotions that contain aloe vera can also make you feel better.
DID YOU KNOW? Anesthetic sprays containing benzocaine (which is acidic) can irritate your skin even more or cause an allergic reaction.
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BEST WAY TO... Stop a bloody nose
You've been sneezing and sniffling and all of the sudden, you have a gusher. Photo credit: Getty Images
· BLOCK THE FLOW. Blow your nose to get any clots out, then pinch the fleshy part of your nose firmly together for about 10 minutes.
· DON'T: Tilt your head back, put ice on your nose, or stuff anything inside it. "None of these things will stop the bleeding," says Dr. Melrose.
SEE A DOCTOR IF... You feel faint or weak, the bleeding won't stop, keeps recurring and/or you also have a headache or fever.
BEST WAY TO... Blow your nose
Believe it or not, doing this the wrong way can increase your chances of developing an infection. Photo credit: Thinkstock
· Take it slow. Blow one nostril at a time. Doing both simultaneously creates too much pressure in your nasal cavities and can push mucus deeper into your sinuses, prolonging congestion.
Original article appeared on WomansDay.com.
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