Q. I just found out that my landlord put a whole box of mothballs under my house because my mother told him she saw a mouse. Are mothballs toxic to animals? I have two dogs and a bird. Also, are they toxic to us?
A. People have come up with all sorts of strategies to try to keep mice away: mothballs, peppermint oil or fabric softener sheets. There is little scientific evidence to suggest that any of these DIY techniques actually work.
The pesticide in most mothballs is para-dichlorobenzene (PDCB). Older products contained naphthalene. Both compounds can be toxic to pets and people.
One reader reported: “I have a problem with mice, and I’ve been using mothballs to get rid of them. I may have used too much because I have symptoms like headaches, nausea and eye irritation.”
A far safer way to try to get rid of mice is to have your landlord seal the places where mice are getting in. One reader reported success with this tactic: “I totally solved a mice infestation in our fourth-floor condo by stuffing (extra fine) ’0000’ steel wool in any little space that a mouse might try.”
Mousetraps can be useful, but be sure not to leave them where the dogs can get to them. If you don’t want to kill the mice, there are live traps.
Q. I had a large wart about the size of a penny in my ear flap that had been there for several years. I cut a small piece of banana peel the same size as the wart, taped it in place, and replaced it every day. It’s been about two weeks now, and the wart is all but gone.
The results of this remedy were truly amazing. All you need is a piece of banana peel the size of the wart itself.
A. Thank you for the testimonial. We have heard from others who’ve had success taping a piece of banana peel over a wart. The inner part of the peel goes next to the skin. Changing it daily is important.
Here is what another reader said:
“Banana peel got rid of a large wart I had near my eye. I was skeptical, but it worked when nothing else helped. My friends wanted me to have it removed by a doctor, but I wanted to try this natural treatment. It took a few months to disappear completely, but now it’s been gone for more than a year.”
We also heard of a different use for banana peel:
“I used this same remedy to get rid of a deep splinter. I taped the inside of a ripe banana peel on my hand, and in the morning my splinter was gone.”
Anyone who likes such unique strategies will find hundreds more in our book “Quick & Handy Home Remedies.” It is available at peoplespharmacy.com.
Q. My dad can’t drink any citrus juice because it does not agree with him. He eats green vegetables, but not every day. Could he be low in vitamin C? If so, how much should he take in a supplement?
A. The recommended dietary allowance for vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is 90 mg for adult men and 75 mg for adult women. Smokers need more. So do women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 16 million Americans get too little vitamin C, less than 30 mg a day. Some experts suggest supplementing with 200-300 mg a day to be safe. Foods high in vitamin C include bell peppers, kiwifruit, broccoli, strawberries and Brussels sprouts.
Vitamin C is critical for the immune system, skin and connective tissue, and has anti-cancer activity. The RDA may protect people from deficiency (scurvy), but may not be optimal for good health.
Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write them at King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803, or email peoplespharmacy.com. Their newest book is “Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.”