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People’s Pharmacy: Vicks VapoRub on soles of feet silences five-week cough

Q. I have been coughing for five weeks! My body is sore from coughing, and I have been completely exhausted by it. Yesterday at work, someone told me about putting Vicks VapoRub on the soles of your feet. I thought she couldn’t possibly be right; it was just too wacky to be real.

Last night, though, I gave up on the NyQuil that wasn’t working so well and tried the Vicks on the bottoms of my feet.

In fact, my husband rubbed it in while laughing and saying that if it worked, he’d get some sleep, too!

UNBELIEVABLE! After five weeks of coughing all night, I only coughed once last night after using Vicks. We both got some much-needed rest!

A. We have heard from lots of folks that there is a nasty, persistent cough making the rounds that is keeping people awake at night.

We can’t explain why Vicks might work, but we have heard from a surprising number of readers that it helps.

Vicks VapoRub is messy because it contains petrolatum (petroleum jelly). After applying it to the soles of the feet, put on thick socks to keep the sheets from getting greasy.

Vicks VapoRub may not work for every cough, so we have included a number of other remedies in our Guide to Colds, Coughs and the Flu. They include thyme or ginger tea, buckwheat honey and dark chocolate. You also will learn about Chinese herbs like Andrographis and Astragalus for colds.

Anyone who would like a copy of this guide may send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (70 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. Q-20, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for $2 from our website: www.peoplespharmacy.com.

Q. My daughter may have to go on Remicade for her Crohn’s disease. We have been researching it for the past two years, since her doctors have been talking about it for a while. It may be inevitable.

We are concerned about the terrible side effects. She is very sensitive to all drugs, so she is wary. There is only a 50/50 chance that it will help her condition significantly.

I have a good friend whose daughter has been on Remicade for many years now, and we were discussing it yesterday. When I said my daughter has been reading about it, she said, “Tell her to stop reading.”

I asked her why not know what you are putting in your body? Her answer was that her doctor said not to read everything because if you did, you wouldn’t even take a Tylenol.

In my opinion, people should be careful of Tylenol, too!

Is there any justification for remaining ignorant of what you are taking?

A. Not surprisingly, we agree with you. Forewarned is forearmed.

When people know about potential drug side effects and interactions ahead of time, they often can avoid serious adverse reactions that could land them in the hospital. We recognize that some people, like your friend, prefer not to know about possible drug complications.

They likely tune out when prescription-drug commercials on TV warn about dire consequences such as heart attacks, liver failure or death.

Q. I read your column on cracked fingertips with interest, having spent years in New England. I used lip balm for my fingertips, and it worked like a charm.

Just fill the cracks with lip balm. It removes the pain and softens the surrounding tissues. I liked lip balm because in addition to treating the problem, its small size made it easy to pack for repeat treatments as needed.

A. Thanks for sharing this inexpensive solution.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Email them via their Web site: www.PeoplesPharmacy.com. Their newest book is “Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.”