5 Summertime First-Aid Essentials

Summer entices us outdoors with its warm weather and sunshine, but those rewards often come with at least a few risks. Whether it's sunburn, insects, or poison ivy, the abundance of summer can include some painful pitfalls if you aren't careful, and sometimes even if you are.

Fortunately, there are ways to treat these summertime maladies with items already in your garden or pantry. Here are a few examples:

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Aloe vera

Photo: Shahidul Hasan Roman/Wikimedia Commons [CC by SA-3.0]

The gel from the meaty leaves of this spectacular succulent is a topical wonder. Rub it on the skin after sitting in the sun for too long or after being attacked by bite-happy bugs and it will cool, moisturize and promote healing. Chaffin' like crazy after a long, sweaty hike in the woods? Apply a lil aloe gel to irritated skin and experience sweet relief courtesy of Mamma Nature. If you have space and want to go straight to the source, buy an entire aloe plant. Or just pick up a couple tubes of commercially available aloe gel — many brands are organic — at your local health food or drug store.

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Citronella oil

Photo: Mokkie/Wikimedia Commons [CC by SA-4.0]

During the summer, folks burn citronella-infused candles outdoors for a good reason: It's nature's way of keeping pesky bugs at bay. Dabbing diluted citronella oil — the oil comes from the leaves and stems of Cymbopogon plants — over exposed body parts is also an effective way to repel mosquitoes when candles aren't an option. You may have to apply citronella oil more frequently than conventional, chem-based bug repellents, but it's well worth it since using stinky, synthetic anti-bug remedies creates a noxious force field around you that not only repels pests, but people, too.

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Witch hazel

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Never mind the spooky, witchy-poo name — products containing essential oils from the witch hazel shrub should be in everyone's medicine cabinet, first-aid kit and camping backpack. Witch hazel is a powerful, tannin-filled natural astringent ideal for healing summertime blisters, bug bites and bruises. It also helps clear pimples and hemorrhoids. And no, you needn't search for witch hazel at your local wiccan supply store, herbalist or dealer of esoterica — preparations are available at your local pharmacy or drugstore.

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Baking soda

Photo: Aqua Mechanical/Flickr [CC by 2.0]

Its no BS that baking soda is one of the most versatile and useful (not to mention inexpensive) household items. In addition to cleaning and absorbing odors, baking soda is also useful for a particular summertime malady: bee stings. After you've cleaned the wound and removed the stinger, apply a water/baking soda paste to the affected area to soothe the pain. And if you're feeling the unbearable sting of plants like poison ivy, oak or sumac, or a prickly heat rash, a baking-soda paste (or bath) is a recommended treatment.

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Photo: Slick/Wikimedia Commons [CC by 1.0]

Feeling irritated after a long day in the sun? Draw a lukewarm bath, fill 'er up with plain colloidal (finely ground) oatmeal, and take a relaxing soak to soothe scorched skin and prevent blistering and peeling. Or, like baking soda, oatmeal can be whipped up into a paste and applied topically. In addition to sunburn, oatmeal also works magic on poison ivy rashes, heat rash and mosquito bites.