Question: : My son, age 14, has suffered from chronic idiopathic urticaria (hives) for five years. Several months ago, your column featured another person suffering from hives. He had success with vitamin C, so we decided to try it.

My son is now taking 1,000 mg of vitamin C twice a day. He has been able to stop two of his three medications, Zyrtec and famotidine. With his doctor's approval, he has halved his Allegra prescription. We are so thankful!

Answer: : We found nothing recent in the medical literature on this approach. Some research five or six decades ago suggested that vitamin C might dampen allergic reactions, but it has not been confirmed.

We are pleased to learn that your son's hives have responded so well to this approach. Please make sure his doctor is aware of his continued use of high doses of vitamin C.

Question: : More than a year ago, I read about multiple home remedies for nail fungus. I've soaked my feet in vinegar and Listerine, and applied tea tree oil, Vicks VapoRub and Naftin (a topical prescription drug).

I have been diligent and even spend most of my time shoeless to let my 10 diseased dogs breathe. None of this has worked in more than a year. The filing I do every two weeks is about the only thing that keeps the nail thickness down.

Given the time I have spent on this project, I am very disillusioned to see so little difference. In summary, I have found that these remedies are the adult equivalent of catching birds by sprinkling salt on their tails.

Answer: : Treating nail fungus can be difficult. Even prescription drugs don't work for everyone. It would be unreasonable to expect home remedies to be much more effective. You may want to have your dermatologist confirm that you are actually dealing with nail fungus and not some other condition.

Home remedies do work for some people: "I read about toenail fungus and different cures that may or may not work. I have been fighting toenail fungus for six years now. I was using prescription Penlac all this time, every day, seven days a week, with no results other than keeping it at bay.

"When I read your article about soaking the toes in vinegar and Listerine every day, I figured I had little to lose. I started soaking twice a day, and I still am. It's been three months, and all my nails have cleared up except for the big toes. Even they have nearly grown out and are looking pink and healthy. I can't thank you enough."

Question: : My son is taking a product to cleanse his colon every day. He says it's working. Is there any downside?

Answer: : We don't know what is in the product your son is taking, but often OTC colon cleansers contain senna or other harsh laxatives. When the colon occasionally needs to be cleaned, before a procedure such as a colonoscopy or surgery, the doctor prescribes a preparation that does this job very effectively.

If your son is constipated, there are better ways to address that problem. Over-reliance on laxatives can lead to dependence and make matters worse.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of this newspaper or e-mail them via their Web site,

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