Surprising home remedies for summer hazards

The Charlotte ObserverJuly 1, 2013 

Summertime is full of hazards — from bee stings to muscle cramps to motion sickness.

Joe and Terry Graedon, famous for The People’s Pharmacy syndicated column and National Public Radio show, suggest looking in your kitchen cabinet for first aid.


If you happen to burn yourself while grilling hamburgers, one of the best remedies may be sitting nearby.

“Grab the yellow mustard, especially if it’s cold,” Joe said. “Just pour it on the burn and let it dry. The yellow mustard takes away the pain.” Do this after first running cold water on the burn, though.

Why does mustard work? “We think it’s the turmeric,” Joe said. “There’s vinegar in mustard as well,” Terry added.

If you don’t have mustard, soy sauce also does the job, they said.


Got muscle cramps? “Swallow a teaspoonful of mustard. It’s about the fastest remedy we can think of,” Joe said.

Minor cuts

To stop the bleeding from cuts and nicks, pull out a shaker of finely ground black pepper and pour it on, the Graedons said.

You can wrap the cut with a towel or bandage, but you don’t have to. “Basically, it’ll just stop bleeding within several seconds,” Joe said.

Some people have used it for more serious cuts, but the Graedons don’t recommend that.


You can soothe the sting of a wasp or bee by cutting an onion in half and holding the cut side to the sting, the Graedons said.

They believe it works because onions contain anti-inflammatory agents.

Two alternatives: Meat tenderizer or baking soda. Take either powder and make a paste with water. Slather it on the sting immediately.

Allergies, asthma

If you develop a wheezing attack and your allergy medication isn’t handy, drink two cups of coffee, maybe three if they’re small.

“Caffeine in the coffee is almost as good as an old asthma medicine called theophylline,” Joe said.

Motion sickness

If summer vacation finds you flying cross country, taking a car trip or sailing, you might succumb to motion sickness. Ginger is an ancient Chinese treatment. Make a tea or just eat candied ginger.


If you come in contact with poison ivy or poison oak, first wash the area with soap and water or alcohol wipes.

Then slather a soothing film of milk of magnesia on the rash, the Graedons said.

It also works for jock itch and other fungal infections.


Put something really cold — such as a metal key or an ice cube — at the back of the neck.

One woman told the Graedons she keeps a butter knife in the freezer just for this purpose.

Why does it work? “It probably has something to do with reflexes and the way the nervous system and vascular system interact,” Terry said.

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