Curse When You Have a Stubbed Toe and 6 More ‘First Aid’ Tricks for Pesky Problems

Why whole milk heals a burned tongue and 'buddy fingers' make a paper cut go away.

'Buddy tape' fingers when you have a paper cut

Yasu + Junko for Reader's Digest

Paper cuts heal more quickly and with less infection risk (germy hands!) if you keep them covered. "But webbing between fingers is a tough spot because of all the stretching and movement," says Matthew Fink, MD, a professor of clinical neurology at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. Solution: Buddy tape fingers together using paper or cloth first aid tape (snug but not too tightly) for a couple of days until the cut heals. (Avoid these first aid mistakes, which are more dangerous than you think).

Drink low-fat or whole milk when you burn your tongue

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Melted cheese from piping-hot pizza or nachos can stick to your tongue and the roof of your mouth, causing burns and blisters. Drink cold milk to soothe the pain, suggests Kim Harms, DDS, a spokesperson for the American Dental Association. The fats in the milk coat the burned area and create a soothing barrier that provides relief cold water cannot.

Press your tongue to the roof of your mouth if you bite it

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Chomped down on your tongue? After that initial yelp, rinse the tongue with cold water and then press it against the roof of the mouth. The pressure helps stop bleeding (rich blood supply may make bleeding more profuse in the mouth than other parts of the body). If pain persists, hold a piece of ice to the bite and avoid eating spices. Future advice for the hungry: Chew slowly when eating, and save chatting for after you swallow.

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Curse like a sailor when you stub your toe

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Stubbed toes truly do hurt worse than other little injuries. The brain prioritizes pain signals from our feet for our safety, says Joshua T. Goldman, MD, a professor of sports medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. Letting loose a four-letter word can lessen the pain, U.K. research has found. Researchers suspect that swearing may release natural pain relievers in the brain. (Got a really bad stub? Buddy tape it like you would a paper cut for faster healing, says Dr. Goldman.) Here are the other occasions when it's perfectly fine to curse.

Favor the front of your mouth to prevent brain freeze

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That sudden flash of agony after a slurp of a milk shake is actually a type of migraine triggered when extremely hot or cold things stimulate the vagus nerve at the back of the mouth, says Dr. Fink. Take small sips, and let frozen treats melt in the front of your mouth before you swallow. Prone to migraines? Try one of these migraine home remedies.

Use nail scissors for an inflamed cuticle

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Whatever you do, don't rip it off. This can tear away live skin and increase risk of infection. Instead, snip off the dead skin with a pair of clean nail scissors, then disinfect the area with rubbing alcohol and dab on some antibiotic cream like Polysporin or bacitracin, says dermatologist Debra Jaliman, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets From a Top New York Dermatologist. To prevent hangnails, Dr. Jaliman tells her patients to rub on cuticle oil before bed and wash hands with an extra-moisturizing body wash instead of regular liquid soap. They occur when the area around the cuticle gets very dry, so the skin rips.

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Grab tweezers when you have an ingrown hair

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The best way to treat a red, swollen ingrown hair: Get it out so your skin can start healing and your immune system can stop trying to fight the "intruder," says Dr. Jaliman. Clean the area with rubbing alcohol, then pluck it out with clean tweezers, and apply a topical antibiotic cream. "In my office, we also inject it with a steroid to decrease inflammation," says Dr. Jaliman. To prevent ingrowns, which tend to crop up around the bikini line in women and the neck in men, stick to shaving or hair-removal depilatory creams instead of waxing, which makes it more likely that hairs will curl under the skin as they grow back out.

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