Q: For about three years, I had a chronic problem with “jock itch.” First I tried many OTC products, but none worked. My physician dismissed the problem by telling me that it was a seasonal allergy despite my protests that it lasted all year long. Then my urologist and dermatologist each prescribed products that gave no more than limited temporary help.

A recent People’s Pharmacy article mentioned milk of magnesia for jock itch. I bought a store’s private-label MoM, applied it after my shower and was stunned with the almost instant relief. My only dissatisfaction was the very liquid form of MoM.

A: Jock itch (tinea cruris) is caused by fungal overgrowth on areas of the skin that get warm and moist. The itchy rash is not limited to athletes nor to men. It can occur on the inner thighs, buttocks, genitals and even under the breasts (intertrigo).

Antifungal creams are the usual recommendation. Some people have been able to control jock itch by washing the area with dandruff shampoo containing selenium sulfide (Selsun Blue). Another popular remedy is applying old-fashioned amber Listerine to the rash. Be careful, though; the alcohol can sting if the skin is irritated.

Many readers have reported success with milk of magnesia, especially for breast rashes. One person found that leaving the bottle ajar allowed the liquid to evaporate and the remainder became a thick cream. That made application easier.

If you find such treatments helpful, you may wish to read our book “Quick & Handy Home Remedies.” It contains hundreds of simple approaches for common ailments and is available in the book section of peoplespharmacy.com.


Q: I would like some information on using melatonin as a sleeping aid. Will it work for people traveling long distances? Are there any side effects I should know about? I am traveling to Europe this summer.

A: Melatonin has been used for the jet lag that can occur when a person travels over several time zones (Travel Medicine and Infectious Disease, January-March 2008). Occasionally, people taking melatonin will develop a skin reaction (“fixed drug eruption”). This should be a signal not to take it again. People on oral anticoagulants and those with epilepsy should take melatonin only under their doctors’ supervision (BMJ Clinical Evidence, online, April 29, 2014).

Melatonin seems to be otherwise safe for short-term use, such as for jet lag (Clinical Drug Investigation, March 2016). Some people may report dizziness, nausea, headache or sleepiness.

Q: You’ve written about putting keys on the back of the neck to stop nosebleeds. That makes the issue sound mysterious, but it really isn’t.

Keys are commonly cold. I was taught in medical school to apply a cold face towel, preferably with ice cubes, at the back of the head or even directly on the nose. This usually works. The common element is “cold.”

A: We have heard from many people that dangling keys down the back of the neck can help stop a nosebleed. These reports mostly date from a time when keys, even car keys, were made of metal and would usually be cold. Others told us of keeping a butter knife in the freezer to apply to the back of the neck in the event of a nosebleed.

A study published in the American Journal of Rhinology (July-August 2006) reported that “ice collars” significantly reduce blood flow to the nose. The authors note that this “may provide the basis for the clinical observation that ice collars are helpful in the treatment of nosebleeds.”