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Originally published Sunday, July 29, 2012 at 5:30 AM

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People's Pharmacy: Hot water stops poison-ivy itching

People's Pharmacy shares reader testimonials about hot water for poison-ivy itching; natural thyroid extract for low-thyroid function; and Grey Poupon on the tongue for an ankle cramp.

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Q: I had poison ivy all over my leg, and nothing I tried for it seemed to help much. It may sound crazy, but I noticed that when I got in a hot shower, the hot water felt good on the rash, kind of like I was scratching it.

I found that after putting hot water on it, the poison ivy didn't itch for a while. So I turned up the heat as hot as I could stand it and held it there as long as I could stand. When I got out, it didn't itch anymore.

A: Hot water (hot enough to be uncomfortable but not so hot as to burn) can ease itching for hours. It works for poison ivy and insect bites, but not hives. Another reader shared this experience:

"Your hot-water remedy for mosquito bites was amazing! I tried all sorts of anti-itch creams, and none worked as well as a wet towel, 30 seconds in the microwave, and a minute on the bites. I wish I knew about this a long time ago."

Q: After years of begging my doctor to check my thyroid, he finally ran tests eight years ago and found that I am hypothyroid (low thyroid function). At first he prescribed Synthroid, but even after increasing the dose every year for five years, the tests were no better, and I still felt terrible. I had no energy at all and felt I needed a nap many afternoons.

He sent me to an endocrinologist who prescribed Armour Thyroid, a natural glandular extract. The change was unbelievable! The Synthroid (synthetic levothyroxine) contains only T4, while the Armour desiccated pig thyroid has both T3 and T4. That's what my body needs. Maybe others will find it helpful, too.

A: Some people find that the mix of hormones in natural thyroid extract (Armour, Erfa, Naturethroid, Westhroid) is better than levothyroxine (Levothroid, Levoxyl, Synthroid) for relieving symptoms of hypothyroidism.

Symptoms of low thyroid function include fatigue, dry skin, constipation, sensitivity to cold, low libido, slow pulse, brittle fingernails and mental sluggishness.

Q: I walked all around the house for 10 minutes last night with a cramp in my ankle that wouldn't quit. Then I remembered my sister telling me to try mustard.

I went to the refrigerator and got a dab of Grey Poupon to put on my tongue. Within seconds, the pain was gone, and best of all, it didn't come back.

A: We are glad the Grey Poupon mustard worked for your muscle cramp. Most people have reported success with inexpensive yellow mustard. We assumed that is because it has turmeric in it as well as mustard seed and vinegar. Perhaps, however, the vinegar and mustard alone do the job.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them c/o King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., 15th floor, New York, NY 10019, or via their website: www.peoplespharmacy.org

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