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Fire ant bites vanquished by Vicks

Question: I have enjoyed reading about the unusual ways people use Vicks VapoRub. Here is another incredible application: fire ant bites.

I was viciously attacked by fire ants in my yard one day while talking with some other gardeners. They told me to put Vicks VapoRub on the bites; the itch and stinging went away immediately. A small blister appeared at each site but healed quickly. Ever since then, I've kept Vicks at the ready when I work in the yard.

Answer: We continue to marvel at how inventive people can be with Vicks VapoRub. Many folks throughout the Southern states will be pleased if it works as well as you say against fire ant bites.

We have collected other interesting applications for this time-honored remedy in our Guide to Unique Uses for Vicks. If you would like a copy, please send $2 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (60 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. Vi-76, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.

For safer charbroiling

Question: My husband is the self-anointed barbecue king. He got a new grill for our anniversary, and he fires it up every chance he gets.

I keep reading that charbroiled meat is bad for you. What's the problem, and is there any way to counteract it with vitamins?

Answer: Charbroiling meat can create chemicals that might increase the risk of cancer. Vitamins might not counteract this danger, but some grilling techniques could help. Select lean meat as part of a heart-healthy diet. To make it juicier on the grill (and to reduce the formation of carcinogenic chemicals), the meat should be marinated before grilling.

Defrosting or precooking in the microwave will also reduce the levels of dangerous chemicals that form under high heat. Be sure to discard the juices left over after microwaving.

Of course, your husband needs to make sure the meat is thoroughly cooked so that no bacteria remain to make your children sick.

Both marinating and microwaving reduce the amount of compounds that form when meat is charbroiled. Frequent flipping also helps.

Cookies for digestion

Question: My mother-in-law has experienced chronic diarrhea for the past several years. She has undergone surgery on her digestive tract, and her doctors say there is nothing more they can do. She refuses to leave her house because of this problem.

I told her I had read about coconut macaroons for diarrhea in your column, but she said it's crazy. She is missing out on her grandchildren's youth as well as social events.

Answer: We agree that eating two Archway Coconut Macaroon cookies daily to control chronic diarrhea seems strange. Yet we have heard from many readers that this approach is helpful. One wrote: "My son was exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam. For more than 20 years he has had to run to the bathroom after eating. Thanks to coconut macaroon cookies this problem has been solved."

Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist. Teresa Graedon holds a doctorate in medical anthropology and is a nutrition expert. Write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019, or e-mail them at pharmacymindspring.com or via their Web site: www.peoplespharmacy.org.

King Features Syndicate

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