Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Could sauerkraut juice treat a bad case of itchy feet? August 18, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 9:17 AM
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I HADN’T INTENDED to publish another health post today. Honestly. But then I never planned to suffer from a severe case of itchiness either.

My feet look like a minefield of scratched open bug bites. And they could be—chigger bites. Or so I thought. Yesterday, my physician seemed to be leaning toward poison ivy, or even poison oak, as he diagnosed contact dermatitis.

Whatever label is tacked onto my current condition doesn’t really matter, he added, because all would be treated with a prescription corticosteroid ointment to reduce itching, redness and swelling.

Uh, huh. After two applications, I still had itching, redness and swelling. I was anticipating immediate relief.

WARNING: If you are squeamish, please scroll down. Due to inheriting crooked toes from my maternal grandfather, my feet are not pretty under normal circumstances. But then add a case of poison ivy or chiggers, or whatever I have, and they are less attractive. As you can see, I scratched and scratched and scratched some more. I could not help myself. I started counting the welts and stopped at 25.

Last night I even sought out advice from a local pharmacist, who, after I asked, told me that a prepackaged oatmeal bath treatment would be a waste of my money. Instead, he steered me to an over-the-counter antihistamine. Reluctant to use this allergy medication, I purchased it anyway, quite confident that I would not need the product.

When I arrived home with my package of magic pills, my husband Randy advised me to keep the receipt. He knows me well. I wasn’t ready to pop any antihistamine tablets.

Instead, I tried soaking my feet in a cool baking soda bath, which did nothing except make my feet wet.

As bedtime approached, along with the prospect of an itchy, sleepless night, that antihistamine was sounding more doable. Yet, I resisted, applied the corticosteroid ointment and went to bed.

Ninety minutes later, still awake and crazy with itchiness, I was now ready to swallow the allergy medication that promised to stop the itching and make me drowsy. But first, I tried the baking soda bath again, hoping it would work the second time around. It didn’t.

Off to bed with the antihistamine infiltrating my system, the intense itching finally stopped. But the drowsy quotient of the drug failed.

This morning I arose around 6:30 after a mostly sleepless night. My feet still look like a war zone. But the itchiness, for the most part, has subsided.

But, if it returns, I’m prepared.

At the height of my itchiness yesterday, when I was nearly in tears, Randy asked, “What would your grandma do?”

I thought for a moment. “Sauerkraut.”

Quick to inject humor into the situation, he advised that I stomp sauerkraut. But then he offered a second suggestion: “Apply a horseradish paste.”

DEAR READERS, how have you dealt with contact dermatitis caused by chigger bites (unlikely in my case), poison ivy (likely, although I have not tromped through the woods, but have walked through strangers’ and friends’ yards, sat around two campfires and been in a cow pasture recently) or poison oak (whatever that may be)?

Have you tried sauerkraut juice, horseradish paste or some other home remedy? Please e-mail your suggestions by posting a comment. My feet are counting on you for relief.

Just in case you wanted another angle of my pock-marked foot, here you go. I tried to photograph my right foot, but gave up. It doesn't look quite as bad as the left. But it's still awful-looking and now sports one water blister.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


8 Responses to “Could sauerkraut juice treat a bad case of itchy feet?”

  1. Neil Says:

    I didn’t know that chiggers live as far north as Minnesota. It must be a result of global warming, like nearly every other natural-occuring malady that comes along nowadays! Anyway, in my Army days, a lot of guys used to cover chigger bites with nail polish. It worked for some, but not everyone.

    We also gave out a lot of calamine lotion for all of these causes of itching, which also worked with mixed results.

    It seems like different things work for different people when it comes to this sort of problem. Obviously, baking soda wasn’t helpful for you. There are all kinds of home remedies – vinegar, epsom salts, horseradish paste, sauerkraut juice… Of course, you’ll never know if they work until you’ve tried them. In your case, it sounds like the antihistimine works, so unless you’re willing to suffer in order to try other these other ideas that might not, I’d stick to that remedy.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Yes, indeed, chiggers do live in Minnesota. I’ve had them and so have my kids. I have heard of the nail polish remedy, but have not tried it.

      Just for the record, I was kidding about the sauerkraut juice and horseradish paste as remedies. I wouldn’t want anyone to try those non-FDA-approved options.

      The antihistamine is working, because I am sure am sleepy today. Or maybe that’s also due to my lack of shut-eye last night.

      Thanks for offering your advice, Neil.

      Any chiggers, poison ivy or poison oak in Iraq?

  2. Kristin Says:

    Itchy feet are the worst! I mostly ignore itch, but sometimes, something must be done. I have to admit that I use antihistamines for the extreme cases. Sometimes oral, but I prefer topical. I’ve also used the oatmeal baths and generally try a cold shower before anything, if only for the oh-so-temporary relief of it all.

    Good luck!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      For the most part, the itchiness has vanished. Appearance-wise, though, my feet will look quite unattractive for awhile. But that I can handle.

  3. Donna Lyon Says:

    I’m glad to read that your problems has vanished!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      My problem has vanished, but the scars haven’t. I actually have scars on my feet from these chigger bites. Yes, these WERE chigger bites. Several others who sat around the campfire that night were also bitten. Only one suffered the severe itchiness like I did. Lucky us.

  4. I can COMPLETELY sympathize with you. Don’t fret or feel alone because my feet look EXACTLY like yours. SO I COMPLETELY understand what you are going through/went through. Im here to assure you that you most definitely had a nasty case of poison ivy….as I do at the moment. At an attempt to make you feel a little better about your feet, you could just imagine what that nasty rash looks like all over one’s entire body…Face included! Mine that is!! Ever since I was a child, every summer I would have poison Ivy or Oak…sometimes both and even at the same time. Tons of fun huh? As I type Im borderline itch induced insanity! LoL I was to my dermatologist today as I need steroid injections with every case of poison. However, this go ’round…I suspect I will need a minimum of 2 doses, more than likely a 3rd. Just wanted to let you know for future reference that Apple Cider Vinegar is a God send when the itch starts. My favorite and top choice (harsh as it may sound) it straight Bleach. I know that it sounds a bit abrassive and perhaps painful, but I cannot tell you how WONDERFUL it is to put bleach on the rash after a good scratch. Yes it burns a little but it does double duty. The bleach stops the itching and it also kills the oil of the plant that is still on and under our skin. It also helps dry up the patches, blisters and/or rash(es) of the poison. Now, bleach may not be for everyone and my Dermatologist says she’s against it but it’s about the only thing that gives me any relief!! Anyway, enough about all that itching…..it’s making me itch more just thinking about it. I wish you the very best and will keep my fingers crossed that you dont have to deal with that mess again. Hope you’re feeling much better!! Most importantly, I hope that the itching have subsided entirely!! Good Luck and take care!!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Well, Valerie, I’m still not certain what I had when I photographed that itchy foot. But guess what? I just dealt with another case of itchiness after attending a family reunion recently. We were outside almost the entire time and I was only on the lawn, wearing my flip flops. No tromping through woods or high grass or sitting around a campfire. But my feet broke out and the itchiness nearly drove me crazy and my feet are once again pocked due to my scratching.

      I’d be willing to try the apple cider vinegar, but not the bleach. That sounds just way too unsafe. Thanks for the suggestions.

      Have you been able to pinpoint the specific source of your exposure? Apparently not or you’d avoid it.

      Thanks for stopping by and here’s hoping for a fast recovery for you. Your case sounds way worse than mine have been, and I think this is number three for me in the past few years.

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