When minor medical issues crop up (nosebleeds, insect stings, dandruff!), chances are your medicine cabinet already contains some effective—and surprising—fixes for what ails you. Here are common household items that do double duty, saving you a trip to the pharmacy—and cash in the process!
The effervescent type with sodium bicarbonate helps neutralize the acid that causes painful heartburn symptoms.
“Antacid formulations such as Alka-Seltzer contain aspirin, an anesthetic that can help ease the sting and itch of insect bites,” says Howard Sobel, MD, a clinical attending physician in dermatology and dermatologic surgery at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City.
He recommends making a paste with a crushed antacid tablet, a pinch of oatmeal (also a skin soother), and water and applying it to the skin. Results are immediate—and this DIY formula has a healing bonus that other anti-itch salves lack. “Calamine lotion contains zinc oxide, which can be drying to the skin,” Dr. Sobel explains. “Effervescent antacid tablets provide quicker relief from pain and itching—without the dehydrating side effects.”
“Both types of mouthwash—with and without alcohol—contain antimicrobial properties that reduce the number of bacteria in the mouth,” explains Edgard El Chaar, DDS, a clinical associate professor of periodontology and implant dentistry at NYU College of Dentistry.
If you’ve switched to an alcohol-free version, don’t throw away the old bottle: Use the alcohol mouthwash to keep your feet and toenails pristine. To prevent athlete’s foot, soak a cotton ball with the liquid and swab the bottoms of your feet and between toes after every shower. According to Dr. Sobel, the high alcohol content of traditional mouthwash helps ward off fungal infections.
Many dentists recommend baking soda to help remove superficial stains from enamel, making teeth appear whiter. It also prevents bad breath and gets rid of plaque embedded in the area between the teeth and gums.
Used topically, baking soda takes the sting out of sunburn and minimises the itch and discomfort caused by a variety of skin conditions (including eczema, prickly heat, and poison ivy).