Soap in hand relieves cramps; try Listerine for pesky head lice

August 16, 2011 

I am prone to very painful hand and finger cramps. When they strike, I massage them or run hot and cold water over the hands. Nothing works but time.

Today my left hand was in terrible pain that wouldn’t cease. I went to the Internet and looked up “Home Remedies for Hand Cramps.” I saw the suggestion on your website about holding a bar of soap and immediately opened a new bar. When I held it in my aching hand, POOF -- the pain went away within seconds. It seemed like a miracle.

The idea of holding a bar of soap to overcome hand cramps grew out of the practice of preventing nighttime leg cramps with a bar of soap under the bottom sheet.

Another reader reports: “We swear by the soap in the bed, and have had no problem with leg cramps in years.

A few days ago, the fingers in both of my hands cramped up. I thought of the soap, held it in my hands, and the cramps went away like magic.”

We don’t know why this remedy seems to work, but many people have had success with it. Some scientists insist that it is the placebo effect. Regardless of the mechanism of action, holding a bar of soap seems like an inexpensive, low-risk solution to a painful problem.

I have been diagnosed with a bad case of acid reflux. I am not supposed to eat citrus fruits, tomatoes or tomato-based foods. Those are the staples of my diet. I put tomatoes in almost everything. There go pastas, pizza, soups -- you name it.

Is there anything I can put on tomatoes or fruit that will neutralize the acids? I also have been told to avoid fizzy water, caffeine and alcohol, so there’s not much left. Decaf iced tea doesn’t agree with me. Help!

There is an over-the-counter product called Prelief (calcium glycerophosphate) that takes the acid out of food. It comes in tablets or powder form and is sold in drugstores or online at It should make digesting juice or tomatoes less challenging.

We are sending you our Guide to Digestive Disorders for many more nondrug ideas on dealing with heartburn and reflux.

Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (64 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. G-3, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for $2 from our website:

Cutting back on carbohydrates like pasta and pizza may be more helpful than eliminating tomatoes.

Studies have found that a low-carb diet often can ease symptoms of reflux, especially in overweight individuals (Digestive Disease and Sciences, August 2006).

I am a 12-year-old girl with VERY thick hair. I’ve gotten lice every year since second or third grade. This year I’ve had them four times!

I have lice now, and I’m tired of it. I am scared someone will see a louse in my hair at my camp. I tried pouring Listerine on my hair, but I couldn’t stand the smell for two hours. What else can I do?

If you cover your hair with a shower cap or towel after drenching it with Listerine, it should reduce the smell. Half an hour to an hour should be long enough.

Another option is to soak your hair in Cetaphil cleanser and use a blow-dryer.

It will make a hard shell on your hair, but the lice should be dead when you wash it off the next morning (Pediatrics, September 2004).

Joe and Teresa Graedon, authors of “Favorite Home Remedies From The People’s Pharmacy,” answer questions from readers. E-mail them via their Web site:

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