People's Pharmacy: Using Vicks to block nauseating smells; taking a heartburn medicine to combat warts; and sharing pill-swallowing tricks.

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Q: I’m a paramedic and also work in an OB (obstetrics) unit. A little Vicks under the nostrils helps a lot. I’ve never had a new dad get sick or faint when he’s used it.

I believe more people get sick due to smells than sights, and Vicks very effectively blocks the odors. We carry it on our ambulance for crew use, and it really helps keep the crew from getting motion sick (especially during calls with really bad smells).

A: You are not the first person to share this unusual use for Vicks VapoRub. A forensic crime-scene detective reported that a dab of Vicks under his nose helped block noxious odors. Horse trainers tell us that a dab of Vicks under the nostrils can keep a stallion focused despite the presence of mares.

Vicks VapoRub is often used for cold symptoms, but a surprising trick to quell a cough involves Vicks on the feet.

Q: I had plantar warts on the bottoms of my feet for close to five years. It got to the point where I didn’t wear flip-flops or anything that showed my feet, which was hard because I’m a surfer and a skateboarder.

I tried everything, including duct tape. My dermatologist applied liquid nitrogen to freeze them off and eventually used a blister treatment to try to lift them off. Nothing worked!

Then one day the doctor decided to prescribe an experimental treatment called Tagamet. It took this heartburn medicine about two months to work completely, but my warts finally went away. I have to say this treatment is not experimental. It really works.

A: Although scientific studies have produced mixed results when it comes to Tagamet (cimetidine), we have heard from many others who believe this oral heartburn drug really works.

Many have tried every home remedy and dermatologist-prescribed treatment in the book, only to find that Tagamet was the final answer.

Q: During a recent stay in the hospital, while swallowing pills I mentioned to the nurse that I had a dread of having a large pill getting stuck in my throat. She explained that the right way to swallow is to lower your chin down toward your chest. That position opens up the esophagus and allows the pill to slide down smoothly. It worked!

A: We have collected several pill-swallowing tricks through the years. The one you describe helps most, but not all, people with a pill-swallowing problem.

Another trick is to take the pill with bottled sparkling water, drinking from the bottle. Sucking at the narrow neck of the bottle helps the pill go down more easily.

Some people report that popping the pill in the mouth and then sipping water through a straw helps avoid the gag reflex.

If the pharmacist says it is OK to take the pill with food, a spoonful of applesauce or yogurt also may help the medicine go down. It is important to make sure that pills do not get stuck in the throat, since some can cause serious irritation.

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 Web site: www.peoplespharmacy.org