Friday, November 26, 2010

Mayo Clinic guide: Home remedies can do the trick

By Janice Lloyd, USA TODAY

In this age of rising medical costs and growing demands on our time, a trip to the doctor is something we hope to avoid.
But how do you keep yourself healthy enough to stay away? And how do you know what illnesses you can treat at home and which need professional attention?

Enter the Mayo Clinic's Book of Home Remedies, a 200-page guide for treating more than 100 common conditions. Savvy parents looking for quick advice and good bedside manner get both from author Philip Hagen, who discusses alternative and conventional approaches to healing, cautions about when to seek medical help and offers advice about how to stay healthy.

"This book reflects our experience in working with people who come to the doctor when there may be something that they can do at home," says Hagen, who specializes in internal and preventive medicine.

"We looked at conditions that had a broad impact on the population for which there seemed to be some reasonable home remedies. Then we asked the experts at Mayo to see if there might be reasonable scientific explanations for them and to determine that they're safe."

The need for families to stretch dollars wasn't overlooked by Hagen and his colleagues at Mayo. "The timeliness of this book is in no small part brought about by increasing medical costs," Hagen says.

The kinds of remedies addressed are as diverse as gentle stretching for back pain, swallowing a teaspoon of sugar for hiccups, trying ginger for morning sickness and using Tylenol for teething. And there are instructions for performing lifesaving moves such as CPR and the Heimlich maneuver.


"The best way to approach managing allergies is to know and avoid your allergy triggers," Hagen says.

The most common allergens are inhaled — such as pollen, dust, mold and pet dander. At this time of year, when weed pollen is at its worst, people sensitive to pollen can be particularly miserable. He advises:

•Close windows and doors.

•Don't hang laundry outdoors.

•Use an allergy-grade filter on your heating system.

•Rinse out your sinuses with a nasal lavage.


Insomnia disturbs more than one-third of adults at some point, Hagen says. He suggests lifestyle changes — including getting exercise and taking a warm bath one to two hours before bedtime — before resolving to find other ways (antihistamines, sleeping pills) to improve sleep.

•Try gentle exercise like stretching to relax.

•Take a warm bath one to two hours before bedtime.

•Limit naps to 20 or 30 minutes.


Prevention is the key. If you can follow the drill, you won't need a remedy. Still get hit with heartburn? Over-the-counter remedies such as antacids and Pepcid will help.

•Maintain a healthy weight.

•Avoid food and drink that can trigger heartburn. These include fatty foods, alcohol, peppermint and tomato products.

•Don't eat two to three hours before bed.


If you get the flu, rest, drink plenty of fluids, try chicken soup — which the authors say helps break up sinus congestion — and consider pain relievers, "but remember, they only make you feel better and can have side effects." Best to take preventive steps:

•Get a flu shot in October or November.

•Wash your hands.

•Eat right and sleep tight.

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