As the mercury pushes ever higher in thermometers across the country, Americans increasingly expose themselves to the elements to enjoy the warmer weather.
All that fun in the sun can take a toll on the body. Summer lends itself to some common maladies and injuries, many of which can be soothed by home remedies. Often referred to as “folk wisdom,” none of these methods should be used in place of a doctor’s care in severe cases.
Sunburn: Protecting your skin from the sun should be a no-brainer, but sunburns happen. Inevitably we lose track of time at the pool or forget the last time we reapplied sunscreen. Sure, we all know about using aloe vera – in gel form or straight from the plant – to soothe a sunburn, but a few other items in your pantry can do the trick.
First off, drink, drink, and drink some more water. Dehydration and sunburns are simultaneous offenders, so your sunburn won’t heal any faster if you continue to be dehydrated. A soak in the tub can also offer some relief. Discovery Health suggests adding baking soda or oatmeal to your bath, and keep the water temperature tepid. If you’re feeling more adventurous, try blending up some raw potatoes with water and patting the poultice on the affected areas. Wait until the mixture dries and then gently wash it off.
Due to the revealing nature of bathing suits, sometimes the sun burns extra sensitive places on the body including the bikini line, inner thighs, and the top of the thighs below the buttocks. During the sunburn healing process, Discovery Health recommends using a little corn starch to prevent chafing from undergarments.
Mosquito bites: It doesn’t seem to matter where you live, those blood-suckers even thrive in Alaska. You can DEET the heck out of your exposed skin, but if mosquitoes like the taste of you, prepare to be itchy. With such a common affliction, people will cling to any hope and any remedy for bites. Various sources suggest everything from bleach, vinegar, meat tenderizer, Scotch tape, dryer sheets, lavender oil, hot water, hot air from a hair dryer — you get the point. If you believe it works, and it isn’t harmful to the body, it’s all trial and error. Be proactive and try these mosquito repellent recommendations. In addition to repellents, try some of these other evasive tactics to protect yourself and your home from summer pests.
Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac: Unless you live in Hawaii, Alaska, or Nevada, there is always the risk that you could encounter poison ivy, oak or sumac. Look out for poison ivy if you live east of the Rockies, poison oak can be found in the West and Southwest, and sumac is common along the Mississippi River valley, according to Discovery Health.
Recognizing the plants is key, and wearing long sleeves and pants in areas where they grow is ideal, but that’s highly unlikely in the heat of the summer. If you have the misfortune of tangling with any of this trio, cleansing the affected areas as soon as possible is the best way to mitigate the ensuing itch. Get to a clean water source and wash the area, use rubbing alcohol, but wiping at the rash with a cloth might spread it further.
Wasp sting: Hornets, yellow-jackets, wasps, or bees — if they fly and have a stinger, don’t mess with them. When a run-in with these pests happens accidentally, be prepared for discomfort. Home remedies for stings are similar to other bug bites, and include using mud, baking soda paste, chewing tobacco or the moistened insides of a cigarette. The People’s Pharmacy recommends placing sliced onions on wasp stings to reduce swelling and pain.
Jellyfish stings: Nothing spoils a trip to the beach faster than a jellyfish sting. Before your rush to emulate R. Kelly or an episode of Friends, there are alternatives to human urine to soothe a jellyfish sting. If you know the beach has jellyfish, pack a little vinegar, rubbing alcohol or meat tenderizer and mix it with water before applying it to the sting.
Plantar warts: Nobody wants to admit they’ve had a wart, but all the sandals and barefoot days of summer are prime time for plantar warts – the type that typically occur on the soles of your feet and look sunken in rather than raised. Popular remedies include mixing baking soda and castor oil into a paste, rubbing it with garlic, soaking in hot water and even covering it with duct tape.
Swimmer’s ear: Some kids (and adults) practically live in the pool all summer long, but continual exposure to pool water can cause swimmer’s ear, a bacterial infection of the outer ear canal. There are several affordable over-the-counter treatments for swimmer’s ear, but you can make one at home with equal parts of rubbing alcohol and white vinegar. A few drops in each ear after swimming should do the trick. Ask your pharmacist for a bottle and dropper.
Cooking burns: From grilling to making s’mores over a campfire, there are any number ways to give yourself a cooking burn during the summer, but the end result still hurts. Most medical experts say to run cool water over minor burns, but the homeopathic remedies are practically limitless. If you haven’t used all your aloe vera on a sunburn, the juice of the plant can offer some relief, as will honey, crushed betel leaves, potato slices, toothpaste (not the gel), and egg whites and vitamin E to keep the burn from scarring.
Chemical burns: Burning your hand while cooking is bad enough, but chemical burns – including burns from fireworks – are serious and often require medical attention. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the tip of a firework or sparkler can burn as hot as 1,200 degrees – hotter than boiling water, burning wood, hot enough to melt glass, and hot enough to cause third degree burns. NFPA says children should never be allowed to handle fireworks, even sparklers. If a child is burned by a sparkler, do not attempt to treat the burn. Go directly to the emergency room.
-Follow Elise Rambaud Marrion, @emarrion_cmn.