Ahhh, summer. Long, warm days, outdoor activities galore and — ouch! — bothersome pests, burning sun and unexpected bumps and bruises (yes you did have to dive for that volleyball). But don’t sit on the sidelines in fear of mishaps; instead, swing into summer with natural first-aid advice tailored to the season.
For the Beach
Sunburn. Prevention is, as always, your first defense. Liberally apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen (one that protects against UVA and UVB rays) with an SPF of 30 or higher. Choose one with mineral ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide that block harmful rays, rather than sunscreens that contain chemicals such as oxybenzone or octinoxate, which can disrupt hormone balance and cause allergic reactions. And remember, no sunscreen is truly waterproof — despite what the label says — so reapply every two hours or after swimming or sweating excessively.
What if you get sunburned? Aloe vera remains the tried-and-true cooling and anti-inflammatory burn remedy. Dab sunburned skin with an aloe-soaked cotton ball at least twice per day and take cool or lukewarm showers (not scorching hot) to further reduce inflammation. Got a tube of aloe languishing in your medicine cabinet since last year? Toss it. It’s best to buy a new aloe gel every year and keep it in the refrigerator to maintain its freshness and healing properties.
Also, rub sun-kissed skin with a thick lotion containing antioxidant vitamin E to reduce long-term skin damage. Choose an alcohol-free lotion to avoid further irritation. Lavender essential oil is also known for its healing and pain-relieving abilities.
For the Park
Bee sting. Given bees’ and people’s affection for all things sweet and sticky (s’mores anyone?) be prepared to deal with possible stings on your next picnic or campout.
When a bee stings you or your buddy, check to see if the stinger is lodged in the skin. Rather than remove it with tweezers — which may squeeze more venom into the site — dislodge the stinger by sliding a straight-edged object such as a credit card across the skin. Wash the area thoroughly with soap and water. Make a thick paste of baking soda and water; then cover the sting with the mixture to neutralize the bee’s toxins. After 10-15 minutes, wash off the dried mixture with warm water.
For pain, apply ice for 10 minutes and then remove it for 10 minutes, repeating the process for an hour. And remember, shortness of breath or facial swelling may indicate an allergic reaction, so treat the situation as an emergency.
Heat rash. Often occurring in children and infants, heat rash’s telltale signs include hundreds of tiny red bumps on the abdomen, arms, neck or back. Heat rash occurs when sweat is unable to evaporate and becomes trapped under sweat glands; hot, humid weather, strenuous exercise, or constrictive clothing can make it worse. It’s also a possible indicator of impending heat exhaustion, dehydration, and heat stroke.
To treat heat rash, first move the affected person to a shady or air-conditioned area, and have him sip cool water. At home, mix 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar in 1 cup cold water; dip a washcloth into it and thoroughly but gently wipe down the irritated area. The apple cider vinegar will reset the pH balance of the skin and kill bacteria, while the cool water will calm down the rash. Change into loose clothing, too.