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People’s Pharmacy: Getting rid of warm-weather foot fungus

Q. Whenever the weather gets warm, I know athlete’s foot is sure to follow. Yesterday my feet began to itch, and when I looked, I had signs of fungus between several toes.

Do you know of a home remedy for this condition? I have been plagued with athlete’s foot for decades, and have used drugstore products without much success. They hold the fungus at bay for a while, but then it always comes back.

A. There are numerous home remedies for athlete’s foot. We can’t promise that any one of them will work better than drugstore creams, but they might help.

Some people find that soaking feet in a solution of half vinegar and half water several times a week is a cheap-and-easy way to overcome the fungus that causes athlete’s foot.

One very old-fashioned, if slightly unappealing, option is to soak the affected feet in urine. One reader wrote: “My ex-wife was a nurse, and she convinced me to try it. It worked like a charm for my athlete’s foot. I had tried many different creams through the years, and it always kept coming back. I have now had 15 years with no athlete’s foot. Try it; the only thing you have to lose is your fungus.”

One ingredient in urine is urea. This natural nitrogen-containing compound made by the body can fight foot fungus in concentrations of 20 to 40 percent (Cutis, May 2004).

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Q. I have been using soap in my bed for five years to manage my restless leg syndrome (RLS). I keep a bar on the couch, too. I even travel with a bar I can use in hotel rooms. I’ve given bed soap to people with chronic leg cramps or RLS, and they are amazed at how quickly it works.

A. Not everyone gets benefit from soap, but those who do are often as enthusiastic as you are. Most health professionals assume this is due to a placebo effect, but an anesthesiologist reported in medical literature that the fragrance in soap does appear to ease muscle cramps (Journal of Multidisciplinary Healthcare, September 2008).

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Q. My allergies cause me to sneeze excessively when I get up in the morning.

Eventually the sneezes calm a bit, but I sniffle throughout the day, which drives my wife crazy.

I am concerned about the long-term effects of antihistamines and nasal sprays. Is there an alternative to these medications?

A. There are actually a surprising number of options, ranging from stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) supplements and vitamin C to butterbur (Petasites hybridus) and NasalCrom nasal spray (cromolyn, originally derived from bishop’s weed or Ammi visnaga).

You can find out much more about these options in our book “Best Choices From The People’s Pharmacy” (online at PeoplesPharmacy.com). You also will learn about HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters for the home.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them via their website: PeoplesPharmacy.com.