Exergen Temporal Artery Thermometer

I like the Exergen TemporalScanner because with a gentle stroke of the forehead, I can get a person’s temperatureaccurately and almost instantly — without having to stick something in their ear, mouth, or any other orifice. I can even check a child’s temperature while they sleep. It’s very easy to use — but do read the instructions to get the right swipe motion.

The device takes 1,000 readings per second, selects the most accurate among them, and adjusts for room temperature to give you the temperature of the temporal artery (near the temple) — which is an earlier signal of disease than rectal temperature. This temporal artery thermometer is more accurate than ear thermometers and is less affected by the sources of error that can make oral or underarm temperatures misleading. (However, for many purposes, temperature precision isn’t that important. Just knowing whether there is a fever or not is far more important than knowing the temp within a few tenths of a degree. And often fever is helpful, anyway.) But accurate thermometer readings can bring great peace of mind.

I use one of these at our home and carry one with me everywhere in my pediatrician doctor’s bag.

Exergen Temporal Artery Thermometer

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Exergen

Pocket MedPack Tray

It’s easy to remember to take one pill a day. Two, even. But if you have to take multiple pills a day, especially at different times, it’s impossible to remember what you’ve already taken. When you’re travelling, it’s especially bad!

I tried a regular pill case, the kind with 7-days of pills in a row. But inevitably I’d forget to take my pills in the morning, or get home too late for my 2nd batch. This little pill case is genius, because you can still schedule your medicine for the week, but the little pod can come with you for the day. There are other versions with four divided areas in the case for those who take more pills.

This would be especially useful for elderly folks who have others helping them keep track of medicine. Those long pill cases can be difficult to open with arthritic hands, and if the lids haven’t all been latched down, getting pills out for one day can mean the whole thing spills out. The assistant could simply leave out this pod for the elderly friend, and it’s easier to keep track for everyone.

-- Fiona Barnett  

Pocket MedPack

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Carex

Tick Key

Though I wish  my dog’s tick prevention worked 100% of the time, it just doesn’t. The Tick Key makes the unpleasant task of removing ticks much easier. I purchased the key shaped tool a year ago after noticing it by the cash register at my local outdoor store. All I do is align the larger end of the key’s opening over the tick, draw the tool toward the narrow part of the opening, and the little sucker just pops right out. My favorite canine, who always dreaded our approach with tweezers and made tick extraction an exercise in fortitude and contortionism, is not bothered by this method at all.

-- Amy Reavey  

Tick Key

Available from Amazon

A Handbook for Yogasana Teachers

This book is a tome of body science for yoga teachers weighing in over 1000 pages. I purchased it a few months ago. While I’ve skimmed the entire volume, I’ve spent the most time on the appendix related to balance in yoga postures.

Most yoga instructors can tell you a handful of things that improve balance such as a gazing point, engaged muscles of the standing leg, and mental concentration. Mel Robin has written 80 pages on this subject. He covers gravitational effects on yoga postures; aspects of mechanical metastability; generating counter-torque when falling; balance sensors, and neural repatterning among many, many other topics. This one section alone has changed the way I practice balancing asanas and how I teach them to my students.

With the recent publication of William Broad’s controversial book The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards it’s more important than ever for yoga teachers to understand if and how science backs up claims related to the medical benefits of yoga. Robin’s book does just that. It looks at the science behind the asanas.

I understand that he is working on his newest edition…

-- Michele McGinnis  

A Handbook for Yogasana Teachers
Mel Robins
First Edition, 2009, 1000 pages

Available from Amazon

Feather PaRaDa Nail Clipper

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Despite their bizarre capitalized naming scheme, these are the nail clippers you want. They beat cheap drugstore clippers in two important ways. First, they start sharp and stay sharp for a long time. I’ve had my first pair for perhaps 7 years, and they still cut beautifully. Second, they capture all the nail clippings that would normally scatter to the winds. This is a feature that seems trivial until you’ve tried it; in fact, it’s a critical thing in a nail clipper.

The clippers come in three sizes. My wife uses a small for her fingers, while I’m more comfortable with a medium. We both use the medium for toes. The medium is a pretty versatile size, and the large, which I’ve never seen, must be very large indeed. Maybe it’s for horse hooves.

I bought this on a hunch, because I was so frustrated with nail clippers that wore down after a few months. I’ve since given 4 more as presents, a move which raised eyebrows at the time, but in all cases has proven successful in the long term.

-- Ashish Ranpura  

[Given that their website is in Japanese here's a bit of history about Feather the Japanese company that manufactures these clippers (among many other sharp objects).--OH]

Feather Parada Nail Clippers
Small, medium, large

Available from West Coast Shaving

Manufactured by Feather Safety Razor Company

Air-O-Swiss Travel Ultrasonic Humidifier


On a recent trip to Berlin in the dead of winter with a toddler with a cough, we found ourselves with a dilemma: buy a humidifier when we arrive and then either sell it after a month or abandon it, or purchase the Air Swiss Travel Humidifier, a little pricey at $50, but a very compact unit. I was against buying something so specific as a travel humidifier, but we were so glad we did.

It’s a little bigger than a Macbook Pro power supply, and twice as thick. It has a clever water reservoir, any .5 liter or smaller water bottle snaps into a fitting, and will supply 6-10 hours of vapor, depending on the setting.

Berlin apartments are as dry as a brush fire, so we also ran it all day in the living room, and even in a large room, it made the air so much more pleasant. Then we ran the Air Swiss all night for the baby, and again it performed perfectly. That’s day and night for 30-days non-stop; it’s built solid.

The only drawback is that there is a rather bright blue light that illuminates the vapor when the unit turns on, which changes to a red light when the water bottle is empty. If you’re a light sensitive sleeper, it might be an issue.

As someone that lives out of hotels a month or two a year, I can’t imagine traveling without it. Even without a cold it just makes the stuffy dry air in a central heated building pleasant.

-- Bernie Bernbaum  

Air-O-Swiss Travel Ultrasonic Humidifier

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Air-O-Swiss

Where There Is No Doctor


This is the only book in the world that will really help you be your own doctor. It tells you how to suture a wound, heal burns, make your own contraception, diagnose tropical skin diseases, and thousands of other do-it-yourself medical procedures you won’t find elsewhere. Originally written (in Spanish) for para-medicals in the developing world, the medical instructions are clear, methodical, reliable, and helpful. Not all the content is emergency care; a lot is basic hygiene and preventative care.

This book is crammed with essential, life-saving knowledge for anyone living or traveling for long periods in undeveloped areas without doctors close by. It can be found in the packs of transcontinental bicyclists, arctic explorers, missionaries and Peace Corp folks. The book is too heavy to lug around in a tourist backpack, but it is also available as a free PDF. But even with access to modern medical facilities, I’ve found this book gives me an abbreviated medical school education. It offers very realistic first aid treatments (more than just bandages), and very easy-to-understand explanations of what doctors see in injuries. It can help you talk to doctors. Finally, when you are done traveling, leave this book behind with someone who can use it.

There is also a companion book, Where There Is No Dentist, equally good.

-- KK  

Where There Is No Doctor
David Werner, Jane Maxwell, Carol Thuman
1992, 446 pages (revised 2011)

Free PDF

Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:


Giardia is a tiny parasite that lives in the gut and is a common cause of diarrhea, especially in children.

A lot of gas. This causes a swollen, uncomfortable belly, cramps, nausea, and a lot of farts and burps. The burps have a bad taste, like sulfur or rotten eggs.
Bad-smelling, yellow, and frothy (full of bubbles) diarrhea, without blood or mucus.
There is usually no fever.

It can last for weeks, causing weight loss and weakness.

A mild giardia infection is uncomfortable, but will usually get better on its own within about 6 weeks. Good nutrition helps. A long-lasting case, especially in a child, is best treated with metronidazole. Quinacrine is cheaper and often works well, but causes worse side effects.


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OPI Matte Nail Strengthener


My husband has dry fingernails that are very thin and are prone to breaking. Once we get into the dry season, they start to peel, and he’s always biting them off as soon as they start to snag.

There’s all sorts of things you can brush onto your nails, but one that I like is from a nail polish company called OPI (that’s Oh-Pee-Eye, not “ohpee”). They have a line of nail care products called Nail Envy. They all look like white or beige nail polish (in nail polish bottles), and most of them are designed to be worn underneath or on top of nail color.

There IS one version of Nail Envy, however, that’s designed for men. It’s called Matte Nail Envy, and as the name implies, it’s a nail polish that dries into a matte, non-shiny coating. Now, my husband swears up and down it’s shiny–it DOES give your nails a sheen, but I wouldn’t call it a shine at all. OPI is sold in most hair and nail salons as well as higher-end stores that sell cosmetics. If you have a store like Sally Beauty Products or ULTA in your neighborhood, they will have it in stock.

If you’re embarrassed to walk into a beauty store, you can always write down the product name on a piece of paper, and go to the cashier right away and ask them to get it for you. The nail polish aisle will likely look pretty overwhelming for you. Another option is to simply buy them online.

If you try it, and you agree with my husband that the sheen is too much for you, my suggestion is that you use an extra fine nail sander to buff off the surface a bit.
Another thing you can do is keep some moisturizer on hand, especially when the weather is cold and dry. Just dab a little bit on your fingernail, then pat your finger down at each of your nail beds, and then just lightly rub back and forth. It will keep your nail area moist and less likely to chip and crack.

-- Lani Teshima  

OPI Matte Nail Envy Nail Strengthener

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by OPI

Image credit: Montpelier Beauty

Homemade Hot Pad


When I need to make a hot compress I put dried beans (preferably lentils) in a pillowcase and heat in the microwave for a minute or two. It’s cheap, easy, doesn’t smell horrible, and retains heat for quite some time. Reusable, too. If you want a pretty one, there are some nice ones available from etsy, including scented ones.

– Courtney Ostaff

I also make hot compresses at home, but with rice in a long sock. Same method: microwave for a minute or two to enjoy around 10 minutes of heat. After several uses, the rice will eventually start to breakdown and you’ll need to replace it. The heated rice does emit a very faint smell, but I actually find it to be comforting. This might be a problem, though, if you’re using the heat to treat migraine pain.

I tried using a rubber hot-water pouch recently, but I found that the thick rubber walls weren’t transmitting heat very well, so I went back to rice in a sock.

– Camille Cloutier


Colgate Sonic Power Toothbrush


I have had a lot of expensive and time consuming dental work done over the last five years, so I am a really motivated electric tooth brush user. I have used at least three different electric tooth brushes and the Colgate 360 is by far the best, while also being the least expensive.

It is powered by one AAA battery so the handle is slim and easy to pack. The one battery lasts a long time. The brush has a non slip rubber on/off switch that has a satisfying click and is more intuitive to use than the two battery brushes with bigger handles. There is no worry with expensive replacement heads. Just buy a new 360. It also has a tongue cleaner feature that I haven’t seen elswhere.

As an aside I took one of the Colgate 360 electric tooth brushes apart to see what makes it work. It has some really sophisticated engineering. The on/off swith is a formed piece of metal that clicks open and closed like the clamp that women use to hold their hair curls at night. The power source is a vibrator in a metal cylinder and the energy is transmitted to the brush head by a rigid plastic rod encased in a flexible plastic sheath. Cool stuff.

-- Sheldon Slater  

[Note: Instead of throwing these away when the bristles get soft, put them to work cleaning in the bathroom or kitchen, or on small parts in the shop. The electric models are especially effective for these tasks.--OH]

Colgate 360 SonicFlex ActiPower ToothBrush
Pack of 3,
Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Colgate