Cold water is recommended first aid for burns – but keep the ice. Also: melatonin for night shift workers, and a breakthrough on a home remedy for arthritis pain.
Q: I read in your column of a woman who burned her hand on a curling iron. He used cold soy sauce to relieve the pain.
Many years ago, I distractedly poured boiling water from the kettle onto my hand instead of into the cup. The pain was incredible.
I grabbed a large pot and filled it with ice and water. I put my hand in the icy water to relieve the pain. When the hand became numb, I took it out of the water, and when it started hurting again, I plunged back into my hand. I continued for a couple of hours until the pain was gone. My hand never has blisters or showed signs of burning.
A: An article on JAMA (27 August 1960) recommended ice water as a first aid for burns. The doctor reported: "In each of the 150 cases, the pain was immediately relieved and the amount of redness and blisters was visibly reduced, local cooling continued for several hours, until the pain is no longer returned when the part was taken out of the bath … This form of treatment has emergency benefits for minor burns, as it is readily available, cheap, human and readily effective. "
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Newer first aid tips suggest fresh water without ice. An animal study has shown that cooling of frozen water "is associated with increased tissue damage" (Burns, November 2007).
Q: I work as a nurse during the night shift. I'm going to do it until retirement, but I'm also trying to do everything possible to stay healthy.
I use melatonin to sleep during the day. I have trouble sleeping more than three or four hours unless I take it. Is it safe to continue?
A: There is a concern that shift workers may be at greater risk of developing breast cancer (Current Environmental Health Reports, September 2017). People who work in night shifts have their natural rhythm of interrupted melatonin production, and this can play a role in cancer susceptibility. Spanish scientists have suggested that women like you should take melatonin to offset this risk (Molecules, February 6, 2018). They point out, however, that there are not enough clinical trials to correctly evaluate this approach.
A scrupulous review of the literature concluded that melatonin can help with sleep problems associated with shift work (Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 12 August 2014). A study of emergency doctors working night shifts found that "melatonin could have limited benefit on sleep quality" (World Journal of Emergency Medicine, 2018, Vol. 9, No. 4).
To learn more about the use of melatonin and other non-cold options, you may consult our online guide "eGuide for a good sleep". It is available on www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.
Q: Purple grape juice and pectin are working very well for my arthritis. I saw improvement in both knees after the second dose. I use SURE-JELL, not sure, because that's what transports my supermarket. It can be found very close to the Jell-O.
A: Many readers have asked Sure-Jell to replace Sure-Jell for Sure fruit pectin in this famous home remedy to relieve arthritis pain. Thank you for letting us know the results of your personal experiment.