Q: I was a ballet dancer from age 3 to 21 and danced pointe for the last 10 years. My big toenails would always crack and fall off. (My sister doesn't have pinkie toenails anymore for the same reason.)
It has been three years since I stopped dancing. I knew I had developed a bad fungus in the nails, but I was too disgusted to look.
I've decided to stop ignoring the problem and get my big toenails removed. When the nails start to grow back, how can I keep the fungus away? I'd like a natural treatment to keep the nails stable once I am rid of the fungus.
A: Before you have your nails removed surgically, you might want to consider another option. Surgery can be painful and increase the risk for infection. A prescription urea ointment can dissolve fungus-infected nails, leaving healthy tissue unscathed. Many home remedies such as cornmeal or vinegar foot soaks, tea tree oil or Vicks may help prevent or treat nail fungus.
Q: I just read the letter from a reader who had recurrent sinus infections for years. I, too, had this problem in my 20s and 30s. I found a remedy that worked for me.
Alcohol is widely used for disinfecting, right? I started gargling with beer or wine as soon as I felt that itchy/scratchy feeling in the throat at the onset of a cold. I continued drinking a can of beer or a glass of wine a day. I noticed this seemed to stop the progress of the cold and the sinus infection dead in its tracks.
This method worked so well that I never stopped the treatment. I haven't had a cold or sinus infection since then. I am now 79 and still enjoy my daily glass of wine. And no, I am not an alcoholic.
A: We've heard of gargling with salt water, but not beer or wine. Then again, people gargle with Listerine, which has quite a lot of alcohol. We can't recommend your unusual approach, but we're intrigued that you have had such success.
Q: It sounds crazy, but your website really helped in an emergency. I heated spaghetti rings in the microwave for two minutes. I spilled the stuff on my hand getting it out of the microwave. It felt like it was on fire!
I held a wet paper towel with ice on the hand for about an hour. It was still burning really bad, so I searched online and saw soy sauce for burns on your site. Man, as soon as I poured it on, I felt relief! It cooled the on-fire feeling right away. Thank you.
A: When we first heard about using soy sauce for minor household burns, we were skeptical. Then a reader shared this: "I listened to your public radio show and heard a man call in recommending soy sauce for burns. I thought it sounded weird. Then I took a loaf of bread out of the oven and hit my thumb on the metal rim of the pan. I expected a painful burn. Since I had nothing else at hand, I decided to try the soy-sauce remedy.
"The pain eased in less than a minute, the soreness did not materialize, and even the redness went away! It may be weird, but it certainly did work."
We have since heard from many readers who have had success with this remedy. A serious burn deserves immediate medical attention.
In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Send questions to them via peoplespharmacy.com.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times