With summer in full swing and with travel as an option once again, accidents are bound to happen to even the most careful adventurers. Being prepared for injury and knowing how to treat minor ailments naturally can make a world of difference in your recovery time.
To get back on your feet, enjoying that summer sun as quickly as possible after a bump, bruise, cut, sprain, burn, bite, or stomach bug, read on for some of the most reliable natural remedies for common summertime ailments.
1. Minor Cuts and Scrapes
If you or someone you’re exploring with is hit with a minor grade cut or scrape, don’t panic. First, wash your hands with antibacterial soap before handling the affected area to minimize any germs that might come in contact with the wound.
After washing up, elevate the cut and apply pressure with either a clean rag or gauze until the bleeding stops. Rinse your wound with clean water alone, making sure to avoid use of soaps, hydrogen peroxide, or iodine as they can cause irritation.
At this point, closely examine the area for any debris and remove it with clean tweezers. If you find you’re unable to remove obvious particles, see a doctor for assistance. 1
Next, apply unprocessed honey or an antibiotic ointment to keep the wound surface moist. Doing so helps prevent scarring. 2
Finally, cover your cut or scrape with clean bandages or gauze to keep it protected from further exposure to dirt and germs. It’s important to change the dressing every day or as soon as it becomes wet or dirty.
2. Sprained Limbs
Ouch! In the unfortunate event you find yourself with a sprained limb (ankle and wrist are most common), be sure to remember the acronym RICE or Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevate. It’s an easy-to-remember phrase that can assist in effectively treating the injured limb.
- Rest: As soon as you’re able, stop using the injured limb and rest the affected muscles.
- Ice: Using a towel, so as not to make direct contact with the skin, ice the injured area for twenty minutes as often as four to eight times a day to reduce swelling and discomfort.
- Compression: Put steady, even pressure on the affected area with special bandages and/or splints, but not so tight that your circulation is cut off.
- Elevate: Raise the injured limb above your heart to help reduce swelling. You can go ahead and elevate when you’re icing the limb.
Use the RICE method for two or three days…until you notice the swelling recede. If the pain persists, you can add 10 to 20 minutes of indirect heat (through a cloth or towel)3. Try not to use it or bear weight for the first few days while using the RICE method.
After a few days, if you are still in pain, consider seeking acupuncture to stimulate the lymphatic system, which eases and shortens the discomfort4. You can slowly reintroduce exercise when the pain subsides, being careful to not overexert and reinjure the limb.
3. Bug/Lyme Disease Prevention
Hiking beautiful landscapes in the summer months is one of the most popular outdoor activities. It’s also a great way to run into wood and deer ticks. Sadly, ticks don’t limit their existence to only hiking trails and can be found in the backyard or neighborhood park, too. The best way to avoid Lyme Disease is through prevention and preparation.
Wearing light-colored clothes can help you quickly spot ticks trying to climb up your arms and legs. You can also take an extra precaution and secure duct tape (sticky side facing up) around the outside of your pants under the knee area to trap any ticks scaling your legs. If you’re going to walk through long grasses or brush, be sure to tuck your pants into your socks so ticks don’t have easy access to your skin. And visually checking your entire body every time you return from the outdoors as well as three days after is the best way to prevent tick infections.5
Extract from the lemon eucalyptus tree is called PMD (paramethan 3, 8 diol) and is a common ingredient used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) as an insect repellent. Aside from this, thanks to its low vapor pressure, it is the only plant extract proven to last several hours and protect against a wide range of insects, especially ticks!6
Citronella is another plant extract that is just as effective as its synthetic cousin DEET…only it doesn’t last as long as DEET or PMD (due to its high vapor pressure), which is fine if you remember to re-apply the repellent regularly. However, citronella is really only effective against host-seeking mosquitoes.
If you do find yourself with a tick bite, secure the tick that bit you on a piece of tape and bag it. If you notice a rash resembling a “bullseye” developing around the bite site, go see your doctor. Remember that tick you taped and bagged? Your doctor will be able to test it for Lyme disease, and you should be given a course of antibiotics as a precautionary measure. Acupuncture could be given in addition to antibiotics to stimulate your body’s natural healing response.
For mosquito and other bug bites, a small drop of unprocessed honey spread over the bite helps reduce inflammation, prevent infection, and soothes the redness and itchiness that comes with bug bites.7
In addition to reducing inflammation and redness from bug bites, arnica cream and gel help relieve itching. Basil oil is another natural remedy for inflammation, itchiness, and the rashes associated with it.
Don’t have any of those? Try baking soda! Mix baking soda with a little water in a 1:3 ratio until you get a paste-like consistency. Spread it over the bite and wait for the relief to set in. Just don’t use the paste every day as it is likely to cause irritation with regular use.
Skin cancer is the most diagnosed cancer in the U.S. and is the most preventable.8 Take care of your skin (your largest organ) this summer and protect it against the harmful rays of our beautiful star.
Physical sunblocks such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide provide broad-spectrum protection, meaning they protect against both UVA and UVB rays. They’re also safe to use daily, especially for children and individuals with sensitive skin.9
Large brimmed sun hats and light shawls are good alternatives to physical sunblock as they keep the sun rays from directly hitting your skin. Seeking out shaded areas versus sunbathing can help protect you from getting sunburnt, too.
If you forget to bring your sunblock or sun hat, it’s okay! Try to stay in shaded areas. If you do get burnt, there are a few natural remedies that will provide relief:
- If you know your skin is not prone to irritation, a homemade marigold-infused ointment can help treat mild burns, rashes, and other mild skin inflammations when applied several times throughout the day.10
- Another great option is gauze soaked with unprocessed honey secured over the burn with special bandages. Honey contains a plethora of benefits when it comes to wound management. Honey possesses anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-fungal properties. Honey synthesizes collagen and stimulates tissue growth. Honey also deodorizes wounds. Honey is proven to be highly effective against organisms that regularly infect surgical wounds.
- The mucilaginous inner gel of an Aloe Vera leaf can be harvested and used on wounds, and has been for centuries. Aloe contains vitamins A, B, C, and E as well as enzymes, sugars, amino acids, and polysaccharides, which not only increase collagen production but also promote wound healing. When harvesting the inner gel, avoid harvesting any of the inner leaf skin. It contains a yellow fluid known as latex and can cause irritation.12
If the sunburn is blistering, don’t pop the blisters! Instead, acupuncture is proven to reduce the wound size, promote tissue regeneration, and reduce germ infiltration of the leukocytes (the clear liquid inside the blister that helps the burn heal).13
Summer is peak time for allergies, and it can feel unforgiving. Try flushing out your nasal cavity using distilled or boiled (then cooled) water and a nasal pot. Leaning far over the sink helps prevent spills. Concentrate on breathing through your mouth as you flush the nasal cavity. Flush the nasal cavity in both directions. Any discomfort from the water pressure should quickly subside once complete.14
Ingesting local pollen-infused honey daily can help alleviate symptoms due to pollen allergies.15 You can even make your own if you know specifically what you’re allergic to.
Acupuncture can provide relief to those experiencing symptoms of allergic rhinitis by reducing nasal symptoms,16 eliminating the need for preventative allergy medication.
Steam baths can also help open swollen sinuses if paired with eucalyptus. Ginger and turmeric are also known for their anti-inflammatory properties and can be consumed in various foods or tea.
6. Heat Exhaustion
Summer heat can be deadly. Dehydration and heat exhaustion can set in before your thirst can alert you to a problem. Preventative measures such as seeking out shade as much as possible or heading indoors to find air conditioning are the easiest ways to stay cool. If you don’t have access to either, find a source of water you can soak part or all of your body in. Cool water helps lower body temperature and prevent overheating.
Besides soaking in water, be sure to carry a bottle of drinking water when traveling out into the heat this summer! Replacing lost minerals and salts with liquids that contain glucose and/or potassium is vital. But avoid drinks high in sugar as they will dehydrate you more quickly.
Don’t just drink your hydration! Eating your hydration is an effective way to keep cool for longer periods throughout the day. Watermelon is a great summer fruit that cleanses AND hydrates your body.17
Darker clothes absorb heat, so try to wear light-colored clothing if possible on high-heat days. Tie up long, dark hair to keep your neck cool.
During the hottest part of the day, avoid heavy activity. If you must exert yourself in the heat, and dizziness sets in or you find you’re no longer producing sweat, stop what you’re doing and seek a cool spot away from the sun immediately! Begin to rehydrate yourself with electrolytes or cool water with a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar (ACV replaces minerals and electrolytes).
7. Food Poisoning
It’s more common than you think, especially during summer months when travel is at a peak! Whether you’re at home or out traveling and find yourself coming down with a case of food borne illness, these natural remedies and tips should aid in restoring gut health.
When traveling, avoid unbottled and untreated water and ice. Don’t eat food that’s warm but wasn’t served hot. When you are unsure of how something was prepared or washed, just avoid it.
When camping or at home, keep raw meats and eggs away from other foods while cooking. Promptly and safely store any perishables to avoid bacteria growth and spoilage. Wash fruits and vegetables before cooking and consuming them. If a perishable item was left out for more than an hour, be safe and throw it away. And keep a lookout for any produce recalls. If it’s recalled, bring it back to the store or throw it away. Never take a chance by eating it.
Replacing lost fluids due to vomiting or diarrhea is crucial to avoid dehydration. If you’re having a difficult time keeping things down, try sipping small amounts of a clear liquid. Water, diluted fruit juice, broths, and sports drinks containing electrolytes are great options.
Although diarrhea is a common symptom of food poisoning, if at any point the stool becomes bloody or a fever develops, seek a doctor for treatment of possible infections.
Saltine crackers are a great snack option when nothing else seems to stay down. They help replace electrolytes, too. Probiotics can also assist in returning the gut biome to homeostasis and shorten gastrointestinal distress.18
Enjoy Your Summer and Stay Confident!
While these ailments can seem daunting, you can use this knowledge to ensure your summer is smooth sailing. If you find yourself in need of medical attention, you can always rely on Silver Tree Wellness Center to look after you.
Now we’d like to hear from you. What natural remedies do you use to treat your family’s summer illnesses and injuries?
- 1. http://www.mayoclinic.org/first-aid/first-aid-cuts/basics/art-20056711
- 2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3495394/
- 3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3606608/
- 4. http://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24953665/
- 5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3195518/
- 6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3059459/
- 7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3495394/
- 8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK247164/
- 9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3263051
- 10-12. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92761/
- 13. http://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20692770/
- 14. http://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/providers/digest/seasonal-allergies-and-complementary-health-approaches
- 15-16. http://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/providers/digest/seasonal-allergies-and-complementary-health-approaches-science#mind-and-body-practices
- 17. http://www.pacificcollege.edu/news/blog/2014/05/25/summer-and-traditional-chinese-medicine
- 18. http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/food-poisoning/treatment