Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The neighborhood medicine women

Let me preface this by saying I am (clearly) not a doctor. And I do not own an otoscope (although I sometimes wish I had bought one when Brynn was still a baby).

Callie has swimmer's ear. When I was in high school, I had a lot of swimmer's ear, so I know how it feels. It's no fun. It hurts. I think that my first case of swimmer's ear was cured with an antibiotic solution from my doctor. After that, it was a bottle of Swim Ear from Long's Drugs that got rid of each subsequent case.

I'm pretty sure there's no Swim Ear to be had here in our part of Mexico. So I started out working on Callie's ear with the old standby, extra virgin coconut oil, which contains lauric acid, the same miraculous compound found in breastmilk and known to have antibiotic, antiviral, and antifungal properties. But, apparently not anti-inflammatory properties, so after a few doses of coconut oil, Callie's ear still hurt. Then I heard from some swimmer friends via Facebook (which rocks, by the way) that they used a vinegar/alcohol solution or cider vinegar to get rid of swimmer's ear. So I switched to that.

But I didn't have any rubbing alcohol.

So this morning I ran to the local farmacia to pick up some rubbing alcohol. The woman there clearly thought I was nuts. "Her ear hurts?" she asked. "Take her to the hospital so the doctor can look in her ear." We are very lucky to live in a town that has a hospital which is within walking distance of the farmacia. "I think I know what the problem is, and I think I know how to cure it, I just need some rubbing alcohol." She was not convinced and was not going to give up the rubbing alcohol easily. I tried to explain "swimmer's ear" in Spanish but got nowhere quickly. Eventually, she looked at me a little sideways and said, "If you know the cure, then...here. Alcohol."

We ran home and mixed up a brew of 2 parts cider vinegar (organic cider vinegar, to boot) and one part rubbing alcohol. I put a few drops in her ear and she seemed to perk up. So we went to the park to play on the playground. That's another story in itself...I will have to post photos.

Toward the end of our playground visit, the ear started to hurt again. On our way home, we stopped into a Mini Super (remember, it's like 7-11?). Callie was moaning and the lady behind the counter was looking a bit alarmed. I told her that Callie's ear was hurting. Her eyes got wide and she grabbed some fresh mint from behind the counter. "Mash this together with Vick's Vapo Rub and put it on her ear," she told me. Hmmm...okay. So we went home and as Callie stretched out on the sofa crying, I mashed up the mint, mixed it with some Vick's (which, together with Pepto Bismol, is one of a total of two medicines in our medicine drawer), and slathered it around Callie's outer ear.

Then our neighbor, Cinthya, came by for a visit. She saw Callie on the sofa and asked what was wrong. "She is sick. Her ear hurts," I told her. "Oh, yeah," she replied, looking at Callie's ear. "It's from the pool," she confirmed. Thank you, seven year old doctor Cinthya. While she seems wise beyond her years, I'm not sure that she can diagnose swimmer's ear by looking at my kid lying on the sofa, although her diagnosis was the same as mine! Cinthya ran upstairs to play with Brynn and apparently, while she was up there, yelled down to her aunt (I think it's her aunt) that Callie's ear was hurting. So her aunt showed up at our door with an herb whose name I cannot remember. She told me to mash it and put the juice from it in Callie's ear. "How did you know her ear is hurting?" I asked her. "Cinthya told me." Oh, right...yelling from the upper balcony down to the street. It's like the Mexican version of Facebook and seems to work almost as efficiently.

So I mashed up the unnamed herb and rubbed some of the juice around Callie's ear. Then I tossed the remaining herbs into the alcohol/vinegar mixture and left them to steep.

If her ear is still bugging her tomorrow, we may take the official medical route (instead of the neighborhood-medicine-women route) and actually visit a doctor. That is sure to be an adventure. Will keep you posted!


Fulton said...

if you go the official medical route, make sure she showers beforehand or else the doctor will probably diagnose her problem completely wrong.

Bri!!! said...

This cracks me up. It so reminds me of my mission. I love all the interesting remedies in the Latino culture.