In five years of parenting, my children have had blessedly few injuries requiring first aid: a bloody nose or two, two minor burns, and a drinking straw puncture to the palate. When my son punctured his palate it bled enough to make me lightheaded, but thankfully it wasn't deep, and as a nursing toddler he was able to breastfeed until he could eat solid food again. In the emotion of such moments, it can be difficult to remember the best treatments to follow. Here are some basic, natural first aid treatments to make your child's next first aid incident less traumatic:
Bruises and Swelling:
- Arnica is available as a fantastic anti-inflammatory cream for bumps and bruises that don't break the skin. This extract from the Arnica Montana flower literally can stop bruises from forming. I always carry a small tube of Arnica in my diaper bag. It's gentle and painless--but don't put it on an open wound or it will sting! It's also available as a gel or spray, or it can be taken internally in pellet form. You can find Arnica in the health section of many supermarkets.
- Of course, ice is also the timeless treatment for reducing swelling (but I always reach for Arnica instead now!).
- Lavender oil is soothing for unbroken skin irritations.
Cuts and Minor Wounds:
- Stop the bleeding as much as possible using pressure, then protect it with a bandage. Butterfly bandages are good for keeping cuts closed.
- Rinsing the cut with witch hazel, a natural astringent, helps stop bleeding.
- My favorite salve for healing scrapes and skin abrasions is a Calendula Tea Tree Salve from Oregon's Wild Harvest. The calendula is highly soothing while the tea tree oil is an antiseptic.
- Soaking with epsom salts can also speed healing and reduce infection.
- Have the child sit up and forward to avoid swallowing blood. Pinch the nostrils just below the bony bridge until the bleeding stops (usually about ten minutes).
- If your child regularly experiences nosebleeds, this NYTimes article focuses on common causes and methods of prevention.
- If your child is choking, have him lean forward, use the back of your hand to give five back blows between his shoulder blades, then wrap your arms around his waist and squeeze five quick thrusts almost as if you were trying to pick him up. Continue alternating as necessary!
- You can review more detailed instructions here from the Mayo Clinic.
Bites & Stings:
- Natural acids like lemon juice or vinegar soothe wasp stings.
- A Baking soda and water paste can lessen the pain of stings.
- Tea tree oil is soothing for mosquito bites.
- So long as the fever is moderately low (below 104 degrees, but below 100 degrees for young infants), try to avoid giving a fever suppressant because fever is the body's beneficial action to fight sickness by speeding up its metabolism.
- Vegetable or bone broth is soothing to drink and helps maintain hydration.
- A cool washcloth with apple cider vinegar or lemon juice wrapped around the feet can reduce fever, and lukewarm baths can comfort your child.
- As therapeutic essential oils are becoming quite popular, peppermint oil on the feet is getting lots of rave reviews for reducing fevers!
- The Seattle Children's Hospital has a fantastic page here that helps when you need to make decisions about fevers.
- If caused by heat, put the burned area under cool running water for fifteen minutes, then cover it with gauze.
- Aloe vera is highly soothing when applied externally. Make sure your child doesn't ingest it as it is mildly irritating to the stomach. (It's poisonous for dogs and cats.)
- Calendula cream or spray is a soothing skin antiseptic, especially for sunburns.
- Electrical burns should always been seen by a medical provider.
If you'd love to have natural first aid information in a visual format, you'll love this chart from Liz Cook, an artist and nutritionist based in England. (I own her nutrition chart and refer to it often!) Her prices and shipping fees to the U.S. are reasonable.
Do you have a favorite natural or holistic health care treatment that you or your children appreciate?
The above information is in no way meant to substitute for the advice or care of a professional health care provider; it is simply a suggestion for minor home care of non-serious injuries. Use your best judgement over mine as you see fit!