Dr. Jay on winter home remedies

October 28, 2010 3:12:09 PM PDT
There is a real phenomenon in medicine where some problems get worse in the cold weather. There are some ailments happen only at this time of year. Instead of running to the doctor, you might be able to take care of them yourself.

Colder weather can bring on medical issues that could take you to the doctor's office. But wouldn't it be nice to do something about them at home? The Mayo Clinic thought so too, and Dr. Philip helped edit a book of home remedies.

"I think that's important to do especially in this era of increasing costs, and there are a lot of things that people can do at home," said Dr. Philip Hagen.

Let us start with dry skin. The colder the air, the less moisture it holds. Add overheated apartments, and dry air dries out the skin. The solutions? Creams to put on after a bath to hold moisture in.

"People put Vaseline on their skin."

That holds moisture in, too. Look for petrolatum or oil as a principle ingredient in products. Bath oils help. As you leave the bath, they stick to the skin. Patting dry with a towel instead of rubbing leaves the oils there.

In colder weather like this, arthritic joints can flare up with pain. This next remedy might surprise you.

How about jalapeño peppers?

"Jalapenos? Peppers?"

Well, not the whole pepper, but a chemical in them. The mouth-burning chemical is called capsaisin. Drug stores have creams containing capsaisin. Rub them over a painful joint, and the burning sensation can block arthritis pain signals to the brain.

"That's an idea, I never thought about that."

Think about this common fall and winter problem - a hoarse voice. Viruses can infect the vocal cords and make them swell. Colds can produce mucous that dries out and settles on the cords. Hoarseness follows.

With a humidifier at home, moisture in the air soothes the vocal cord swelling and dryness. You do not have to spend money, though. Steaming hot water and a towel can create a moisture tent that will do the same thing.

"The only caution is that water is hot and be careful how you move it but that home steamer works very well," said Dr. Hagen.

Dr. Hagen warns patients using capsaisin creams or rubs to be careful to wash their hands immediately after. If not, he says he has seen patients who unconsciously rub their eyes, and the capsaisin still on their hands can cause a real eye irritation.