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6 Home Remedies for Foot Odors, Poison Ivy, Bug Bites, and Other Summer Bothers


Summer is in full swing, so make sure you’re feeling your best with these inexpensive home remedies for warm-weather hassles.

An ice-cream sundae outsmarts ‘picnic sickness’.

More than 19 million of us experience GI upset after eating food contaminated with common, fast-growing bacteria this time of year. The tasty secret to enjoying picnics and barbecues worry-free: Savor four servings of dairy a day (yes, ice cream counts!). Researchers at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore say dairy reduces the risk of food poisoning by 37 percent, plus cuts healing time in half if you do get sick. Experts credit the way dairy’s calcium boosts the production of germ-killing acids in the digestive tract.

Fight foot odor with hand sanitizer.

Turns out that hand sanitizer, which has been a staple in our lives this past year, is also a sneaky-smart way to sidestep the embarrassing foot odor that affects more than 55 percent of us during the warmer months. Simply wash and dry your feet thoroughly, then massage them with a dollop of hand sanitizer, paying special attention to the areas between your toes. Canadian investigators explain that germ-killing sanitizers destroy the two common types of bacteria that make feet stinky (Staphylococcus epidermis and Bacillus subtilis), erasing foot smells for up to 24 hours.

Or try an ACV soak! To refresh sore and funky feet, soak them in a mixture of 1 cup of apple cider vinegar and 4 cups of water. Dermatologist Marisa Garshick, M.D., says antibacterial ACV kills odor-causing bacteria on contact.

Halt poison ivy rash with dish soap.

You love hiking or gardening on beautiful summer days. The itchy rash that can come from accidentally brushing up against poison ivy? Not so much. The kitchen cure that stops irritation before it even starts: dish soap! Thoroughly washing your skin with a dish detergent like Dawn, Joy, or Palmolive reduces your odds of developing a rash by 60 percent, say University of Missouri scientists. The soap’s degreasing compounds break down the plant’s rash-producing urushiol oil lingering on your skin so it rinses right off. Also smart: Taking an oral antihistamine like Benadryl at the first signs of a rash quickly tamps down any allergic reaction.

Or dab on witch hazel! Already itchy? Soak a cotton ball in witch hazel and dab it onto skin as needed. It works as an astringent to draw out the urushiol oil and dry the rash, calming irritation. Plus, its eugenol compound acts like an anesthetic to minimize the itch.

Ward off sunburns by munching on grapes.

Snacking on juicy grapes helps shield against painful sunburns from the inside out. That’s according to a new study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, which found that grapes’ powerful polyphenols bolster skin’s natural defenses against UV radiation. All told, scientists found that folks who savored 2 1/4 cups of the summer-fresh fruit daily were 75% less sensitive to UV rays after just 14 days. Tip: Freeze grapes for a refreshing treat!

Or if you applied SPF but missed a couple of spots, soothe skin with coconut oil. Its fatty acids speed skin cell repair, shaving three days off recovery time, a study in the International Journal of Dermatology found.

Dodge dehydration by sleeping in.

According to a study in Sleep, logging a solid 8 hours of nightly shut-eye reduces your risk of dehydration by 59 percent compared with clocking only 6 hours. Your body releases a hydration-regulating hormone (vasopressin) while you snooze, preventing a.m. fogginess.

Or try a sipping a mix of 1 cup of water, 1/4 cup of orange juice, 2 tbsp. of lemon juice, 1 tbsp. of honey, and 1⁄8 tsp. of sea salt. British scientists say trace minerals and electrolytes boost fluid absorption and erase dehydration within 40 minutes.

Banish bug bites with catnip.

This feline favorite is 10 times more effective at repelling mosquitos than DEET insect repellent, according to research presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society. That’s because a compound (nepetalactone) in catnip activates a pain receptor in insects without irritating humans.

To calm an itch, mix oats with water to form a paste, then dab onto skin. Rinse after 15 minutes. British scientists say oats ease swelling, redness and itching, plus speed healing.

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.

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