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How do you spell relief?

Grandma sure knew how to bake an apple pie. But when it came to dispensing medical advice—well, maybe she should have stuck to pies. As it turns out, some of grandma’s pearls of wisdom—those popular home remedies passed down from generation to generation—can actually do more harm than good. Avoid the following so-called advice:

  • “Put some butter on that burn.” Actually, butter traps a burn’s heat, causing you more pain. Instead, run the burned area under cold water—never apply ice!—until the pain subsides, then cover it with a sterile gauze bandage.
  • “A little hydrogen peroxide will help heal a cut.” While some people swear by it, hydrogen peroxide can delay healing by irritating the wound, according to researchers. Your best bet is to clean the area around the wound with plain soap and water, being careful not to get soap in the cut. Cover with a bandage only if the area is likely to get dirty or irritated. Then change it every day to keep the wound clean and dry.
  • “Blisters are meant to be broken.” Unbroken blister skin provides natural protection from bacteria and decreases infection risks, so keep the blister intact if possible. If the blister makes it painful to walk or use your hands, you can drain the blister with a sterile needle. Make sure to clean the area first.
  • “Stop a nosebleed by tipping your head back.” By keeping your head skyward, you’re letting blood drain to the back of your throat. Swallowing blood may cause choking, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Alternatively, sit down, lean slightly forward and let the blood drain out of your nose. Use your thumb and your index finger to squeeze the soft portion of your nose for at least five minutes or until the bleeding stops.

Not sure if your problem requires additional attention? Err on the side of caution and seek medical care. That’s the best advice grandma could have given you.