Fast and Easy First Aid – Part 1
Ma. Elizabeth Micaller, PhD, ND, CCII, NMD:
It will soon be summertime again. School will be out and a majority of people will venture into nature. Unfortunately, with nature excursions comes the usual bites, burns, strains, and bruises that can happen outdoors while having fun. You may want to prepare yourself with the usual ointments, lotions, salves and creams for such occurrences, but if you are caught in a bind, just go to your kitchen. Here you will find many easy first aid options. Dozens of items from the kitchen can help soothe and heal a variety of minor pains, swellings, and even sprains. The following are remedies that have helped many individuals interested in natural healing. I am confident that the information will prove useful to you, too.
Bites and Stings
Bites and stings are not generally dangerous emergencies, but they can be annoyances that diminish summer fun. They usually lead to itching, red welts, and swelling that go away in a day or two. The difference between a bite and a sting depends on the type of insect: bees, hornets, wasps, and ants sting, while most flying insects, mosquitoes, and spiders bite.
Prevention: The best way to avoid insects that bite or sting is to avoid their breeding sites. Mosquitoes will be prevalent around damp areas such as ponds and marshes. Most insects that bite and sting tend to like sweet smells, so avoid wearing perfumes and other scents when you go outdoors.
Even scented sunscreen or a diet of too many sweets can attract insects.
Wear clothing that will cover your arms and legs when you go to areas that are heavily wooded. Avoid wearing any shiny jewelry as this may attract certain kinds of insects. Drinking alcoholic beverages causes the blood vessels to dilate and this may also make you more desirable to mosquitoes.
Lastly, never intentionally disturb a beehive, as this will almost surely cause painful stings.
Treatment: If you get a bite or sting, first wash the affected area with cool water and unscented soap. Try not to scratch the area because this will cause the toxins to spread.
One of the tried and true remedies for treating bites is baking soda. Simply add enough water to baking soda to make a paste and apply it to the bite or sting. This should immediately soothe the itch and reduce any swelling.
Another known remedy from the kitchen is meat tenderizer, which contains an
enzyme from papayas called papain that neutralizes the venom of bee stings.
Again, you simply combine this with water and apply to the sting. If you have fresh papaya, it will work in the same manner; just mash some papaya and cover the affected area. This is known to ease pain, reduce swelling, and relieve itching.
For spider bites, mash a small white onion and spread on the affected area of the skin. Wrap a clean cotton cloth around the area to hold the poultice in place. If you can apply an ice pack, it will slow the absorption of the venom; this can be done for all other types of insect bites as well.
A less common treatment recommended by Herbert Luscombe, MD, Professor
Emeritus at the Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University, is
to rub an aspirin on the bite as soon as you are bitten to help relieve inflammation. However, those who are allergic or sensitive to aspirin should
not attempt this treatment.
Not all stings are from flying insects. A more common sting during summer in
our area is the sting of a jellyfish. This can cause severe reactions, from
pain and itching to nausea, vomiting, and fever. The very first rule is NOT
TO WASH THE STING WITH FRESH WATER; this will aggravate the sting. Instead,
if you are swimming and think you have been stung by a jellyfish, stay in
the salt water, get a scoop of sand in your hands, and rub the area that has
been bitten. Try to perform these steps under sea water so that stinging
cells that have not been ruptured will be removed. Fresh water will activate
these cells and make the sting worse. Oftentimes, there are a lot of
clinging tentacles on your skin that can spread the sting. Do not use your
bare hands to remove these; you can use a towel, apply shaving cream and
gently shave them off, or apply a paste of baking soda and salt water. Other
known neutralizers of jellyfish stings are vinegar, alcohol, meat tenderizer, and ammonia (which is why people use urine as a first aid treatment for jelly fish bites in cases of extreme pain).
When to see a doctor: Five percent of people stung by insects (especially bees) are allergic to the venom, and symptoms such as difficulty breathing and swallowing, weakness, and excessive swelling can occur. Severe allergic
reactions can cause unconsciousness or even death. In fact, bee stings cause
more deaths than snakebites. If you know that you are allergic to various
stings, keep allergy pills within reach at all times and take one as soon as
a bite or sting occurs. Afterward, go to your doctor for a check-up. If any
bite remains swollen after a day or two, you should see a medical
For jellyfish stings, consult a physician if the swelling does not abate in
a few hours, especially if you experience fever, nausea, or muscle ache. All
other bites should be treated immediately to avoid complications.
In upcoming issues, I will discuss sunburn, bruises and abrasions, heat
rash, and blisters. If you have comments or questions, please e-mail me at