EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE A BASIC FIRST AID KIT lying around the house with:
- band aids
- alcohol and antiseptic wipes
- tensor bandages and slings
- instant cold compress
- splints, gauze and tape
However, there are some other “must-haves” when it comes to caring for yourself and family during acute situations. In this article I’ll lay out my Naturopathic first aid must-haves and what they are good for.
Burns, Cuts and Scrapes
Superficial cuts and scraps often don’t need much attention. A thorough washing with water or alcoholic wipes followed up with a cartoon band-aid and a kiss outta do it. For deeper cuts or ones on thin skin (ie. the face) certain topical aids can help with healing.
- Thorough cleaning– immediately after the incident and each night the wound should be cleaned with filtered water (and potentially antiseptic wash) and redressed until a scab starts to form. Prevention of infections should be your top priority.
- Vitamin C or ascorbic acid – along with it’s anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory actions, oral vitamin C can also help to heal soft tissue wounds, such as venous ulcers (Calderon et al, 2015)
- Vitamin A– this vitamin can with wound healing and supporting a healthy immune system, especially in vitamin A deficient groups (Benn et al, 2015).
- Manganese– it’s antimicrobial and anti-oxidant properties as an oral supplement helps to heal wounds and minimize scarring (Brophy et al, 2015; Treiber et al, 2012)
- Zinc– oral supplementation of zinc has been known to support the immune system and speed along healing (Lee et al, 2015; Cereda et al, 2015) however, topical application of zinc oxide nanoparticles are being researched as well (Oyarzun-Ampeuro et al, 2015).
- Arginine– Topical application of arginine in wound dressings is an important component for major tissue regeneration and healing of wounds (Antunes et al, 2015; Cereda et al, 2015).
- Vitamin E– topical application of vitamin E has been a common treatment for new scars to can help break up the tissue fibers and minimize scarring, however clinical evidence is not conclusive (Sidgwick et al, 2015).
- Calendula– this topical application should only be used with superficial wounds (NOT DEEP). Calendula helps to health tissue more quickly, but if the wound is too deep it can actually seal up the skin and trap in bacteria. So only use topical calendula on scraps and shallow cuts (Okuma et al, 2015).
- Medicinal-grade unpasturized honey– this natural anti-bacterial liquid can be applied to the skin on even serious wounds to help heal and prevent infections (Molan et al, 2015).
- Aloe vera– is a traditional medicine used for healing burns and soothing the skin since it is cooling and moisturizing to the skin. Many lotions, creams and especially Vaselines are bad for burns because they trap in the heat and cause further damage to the skin (Sidgwick et al, 2015).
- Homeopathic arnica– for any acute trauma or pain, taking a low potency (ie. 30-100C) of arnica every few hours or as needed can be helpful.
- Homeopathic Cantharis (30C)- severe burns with blistering (ie. 2nd/3rd degree burns). Take this while waiting to see a hospital attendant.
- Homeopathic Causticum (30C)- deep sunburns or chemical burns with rapid blistering. Make sure to rinse any chemical burns thoroughly for 10 minutes and visit your nearest emergency to evaluate the severity.
- Homeopathic Urtica urens (30C)- 1st degree burns from hot water scalds or heat rash with prickling skin and lots of itching.
- Homeopathic Ledum (30C)- injury to the eye
Tummy Aches, Diarrhea and Vomiting
Having diarrhea or vomiting is the body’s way of removing toxins or microorganisms. This is good. Don’t try and stop this physical elimination, however re-hydration, balancing of electrolytes and supporting the immune system will be very important.
- Vitamin C or ascorbic acid– On top of its anti-microbial functions, vitamin C works as an anti-oxidant and stress regulator by increasing blood flow to vital organs, protecting the heart, and moderates cortisol levels (Nadolsky et al, 2014).
- Zinc– Tablets can e taken acutely for a tummy bug, but not for long-term use. They act to decrease inflammation and infections (especially skin, oral, and upper respiratory tract to limit the frequency), however they can also displace copper in the body if used in excess (Singh et al, 2011).
- Ginger– Fresh ginger or ginger lozenges can be ideal for calming down an upset stomach or nausea from either motion sickness, pregnancy, chemotherapy or eating something a bit off (Periera et al, 2011).
- Vitamin B6– this vitamin is especially helpful for nausea from morning sickness or digestive and hormonal complains with menstruation. It is safe to take for pregnant women but should only be used short term (Babaie et al, 2014).
- Coconut water– this is a great electrolyte re-balancer and provides hydration for those with fluid depletion from mild vomiting or diarrhea. However, this is not good a good treatment to use for excessive fluid loss as the glucose and sodium concentrations are not optimal for re-hydration (Adams et al, 1992).
- Oral rehydration solutions– a mixture of 1L water, 1 tsp salt and 8 tsp sugar (sometimes with banana for potassium) is a common homemade recipe for oral rehydration, however this ratio is not precise enough for severe dehydration. Visit your local ER if persistent vomiting, diarrhea or dehydration occurs (RehydrationProject).
- Tea (ginger, peppermint, chamomile, lavender)- these herbs help to relax the nervous system and digestive system to alleviate upset stomachs and decrease nausea while helping to heal the cause of discomfort.
- Tissue salt protocol– this is a pregnancy treatment to help with morning sickness and other pregnant related discomforts. It is based on homeopathic tissue salts, which are safe to take at all times. Click here for the protocol.
- Acupuncture– an acupuncture protocol from your Naturopathic doctor can help to rebalance hormones, stress and physical tension causing the upset stomach. Click here to learn more about Naturopathic medicine.
- Homeopathic Arsenicum album (30C)- burning pain of the inner lining of the stomach from food poisoning or infection or inflammation, espeicially with nausea, diarrhea and burning stools.
Choking and Non-Responsive
Heimlich maneuver– this emergency procedure is used with people who are choking and need assistance. Before you administer the the Heimlich maneuver you must ask for permission. For a choking adult, watch the following Heimlich maneuver video and the other links below:
- Heimlich maneuver on unconscious victim
- Heimlich maneuver with a child
- Heimlich maneuver with an infant
- Heimlich maneuver on yourself
CPR– everyone should get trained in basic CPR to know what to do if they come across a person who is choking, becomes unresponsive or stops breathing. Here are some basic videos for infants, children and adults. Please watch and be familiar with them, these emergency actions could save a life.
For an unconscious person who appears not to be breathing, watch the video for the details of CPR:
- Assess the situation and environment for any harm that can come to you. If there is a by-standard who is more qualified than you, you give them control and you can provide help
- Assess responsiveness of the victim, “Are you okay?” and are they breathing?
- Call for help (ie. by-standard or call 9-1-1), ask for an AED with a child or adult (don’t wait for infant).
- C- start 30 Compressions mid-way between the nipples (watch video for depth)
- A- tilt the chin up and back to open up the Airway
- B- give 2 rescue Breathes (if the first breath doesn’t go in check the mouth for any choking, sweep if appropriate, re-tilt the head and give 2 more breathes)
- Repeat CAB until help or an AED machine arrives on scene
Allergies, Anaphylaxis, Stings and Skin Reactions
Food and skin allergies can show up as skin inflammation, difficulty breathing, painful joints or an upset stomach. In severe cases (ie. anaphylaxis) an epipen or antihistamine (ie. Benadryl) and hospitalization may be necessary.
- Vitamin C or ascorbic acid– On top of its anti-microbial functions, vitamin C works as an anti-oxidant with mild anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory properties. Drinking a vitamin C solution or taking a tablet can help decrease a mild allergy response (Chambial et al, 2013).
- Vitamin B5 – also known as pantothenic acid, vitamin B5 help with skin conditions such as acne, eczema and allergic skin reactions (Yang et al, 2014).
- Vitamin A– this vitamin can moderately help with allergies and supporting a healthy immune system, especially in vitamin A deficient groups (Benn et al, 2015).
- Digestive enzymes away from food (ie. bromelain, papain)- When digestive enzymes are taken away from food, they no longer act to help with digestion but as an anti-inflammatory agent (Fitzhugh et al, 2008).
- Topical aloe vera gel and calendula– Both Aloe and Calendula are helps heal wounds but also mild rashes and irritated skin (Panahi et al, 2012).
- Oatmeal bath– Oatmeal (Avena sativa) has anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that help to soothe irritated and dry skin. It’s safe to use as a bath or pack to alleviate itchy skin (Criquet et al, 2012)
- Ice and rest– To avoid further aggrevation and discomfort, give your body a chance to calm down and heal. Ice can temporarily help with itchy and inflamed skin.
- Epipen– Epinepherine is used in emergent conditions of anaphylaxis. Anyone with a severe reaction to foods, stings or environmental factors should carry their Epipen at all times and know how to use it.
- Anti-histaminic drugs (ie. Benadryl, Claritin)- Histamines are released with the trigger of immune cells called IgE and can cause local and systemic inflammation of the body to try and protect itself from “foreign invaders”. Anti-histamines work primarily with IgE or allergic reactions and not sensitivities (IgG).
- Homeopathic Apis (30C)- for any kind of sting (ie. bee, wasp, insect bite)
- Homeopathic Euphrasia officinalis (30C)- allergies, hay fever with burning tears but bland nasal discharge, painful conjunctivities with lots of blinking and sensitivity to the sun.
- Homeopathic Rhus tox (30C)- chicken pox, herpetic eruptions, poison ivy or eczema skin conditions.
- Homeopathic Graphites (30C)- dry skin eruptions with scales, cracks and fissues, impetigo, eczema, or psoriasis.
- Homeopathic Sulphur (30C)- any and all skin conditions, especially moist itchy eruptions
Acute Pain, Headaches, Sprains and Strains
Kids and adults will have the odd minor injury here and there. Many times they aren’t severe enough to get immediate medical attention but none-the-less it’s not pleasant. Instead of running for a pain-killer, try one of the following treatments and read more about persistent pain.
- RICE- For normal inflammation from a sprain or strain, use the practice of R.I.C.E. for the first day of the injury to allow for controlled inflammation (but NOT eliminate inflammation):
- Rest (minimal use if there is pain, but maintain some movement)
- Ice (10 minutes on: 10 minutes off: 10 minutes on)
- Compress (allow blood flow)
- Elevate (above level of heart)
- Arnica– Topical cream or homeopathic arnica is indicated for non-open injuries (ie. no break in the skin) that cause trauma to the tissue.
- Vitamin B2– B2 or riboflavin is especially useful to prevent migraine attacks (Gaul et al, 2015)
- Vitamin B12 and folic acid– for general pain, fatigue and migraines, B12 is a critical vitamin along with folate for many metabolic functions (Gaul et al, 2015). B12 can also be injected intramuscularly to help with focal neurological pain.
- Vitamin C and bioflavonoids– eating foods or taking supplements high in vitamin C and bioflavonoids can help speed up healing of injured soft tissue and decrease inflammation(Chambial et al, 2013).
- Turmeric– this Indian spice has major anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties to help with arthritis, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and cardiovascular disease. On top of it’s medicinal use, it tastes delicious and I add it to my curry dishes, eggs, and sometimes as a popcorn topper (Ghosh et al, 2015).
- Magnesium– oral capsules or topical sprays/ creams. Depending of the type of pain, magnesium can be of great help and also good for constipation and insomnia (Engen et al, 2015). These are my clinical findings:
- Mg (bis) glycinate – post-exercise muscle fatigue and discomfort
- Mg citrate – headaches and migraines
- Mg malate – fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, viral infections,
- Mg oxalate – often causes more digestive and diarrhea symptoms
- Topical capsacin– capsacin is the active constituent in Capsicum (red chili) that when applied topically increases temperature, blood flow and acts to reduce pain in the local area. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after application of this product and avoid touching the eyes, face and genitals (Deba et al, 2015)
- Topical castor oil rub– the oil from the castor bean has been used for many years to promote digestion internally but also increase circulation when used topically. Castor oil hot packs are safe on the skin and can support healthy detoxification and pain management, as seen with osteoarthritis (Medhi et al, 2009).
- Acupuncture– acupuncture is one of my favorite conjunctive practices to use with nutrition, supplementation and rest for patients with pain. The small needles work on a variety of levels helping to bring the body into a parasympathetic state, increase blood flow, relax tense tissue, restore and heal injured tissue, improve fascia, decrease pain and balance cytokines and hormone levels. For example in low back pain (Liu et al, 2015), menstrual pain as compared to oral contraceptive pills (Sriprasert et al, 2015), and headaches to name a few (Hayhoe, 2015)
- Anti-inflammatory foods– Click here to read the full list under #3 + 4 of “What To Do?”.
- Sleep and rest– your parasympathetic nervous system and sleep is necessary to release the proper cytokines and hormones to heal the body.
- Homeopathic Arnica (30C)- bruising, muscle sprain or strain, head injury or shock.
- Homeopathic Glonoinum (30C)- migraines that wax and wane with the sun, throbbing headaches that are left-sided, heatstroke.
- Homeopathic Hypericum perforatum (30C)- nerve injury and shooting pain that may radiate.
- Homeopathic Magnesium phosphoricum (30C)- cramping pain or spasms.
- Homeopathic Rhus tox (30C)- arthritis, rheumatism, progressive stiffness, low back pain, L shoulder pain, injury to ligaments from overuse
- Homeopathic Symphytum officinale (30C)- fractures with poor healing, eye injury, phantom limb pain or a prickling, sore pain.
Fevers, Colds and Flues
Colds and flues will happen. It’s healthy to allow your body to strengthen it’s immune system by interacting with these microorganisms and not running to antibiotics right away. If a cold persists for longer than 5 days or you have sever pain or a fever >38.5˚C (102˚F) then visit your doctor.
- Vitamin C or ascorbic acid– On top of its anti-microbial functions, vitamin C works as an anti-oxidant and stress regulator by increasing blood flow to vital organs, protecting the heart, and moderates cortisol levels (Chambial et al, 2013)
- Zinc– Tablets or lozenges can be taken during a cold or flu, but not for long-term use. They act to decrease inflammation and infections (especially skin, oral, and upper respiratory tract to limit the frequency), however they can also displace copper in the body if used in excess (Singh et al, 2011)
- Unpasturized honey– for older children and adults, unpasturized honey (ie. Manuka) has the antimicrobial power to speed up recovery time but should be avoided in pregnant women and infants (Allen et al, 1991)
- Rest and sleep– these are critical component for healing and recovery. Addequate sleep allows for your parasympathetic immune system to allow healing processes to occur.
- For other foods, herbal remedies and home treatments see the “13 Best Natural Cold and Flu Fighting Strategies“
When Should I Go to the ER?
Everyone knows of the horror stories of waiting for hours at the ER just to be sent home without any treatment. The unnecessary use of hospitals backs up the system and costs lots of money. Fortunately it also saves lives.
Visit your primary care physician (ND vs MD) regularly to make sure no red flags go unnoticed. It’s important to know when to visit your family doctor and when a case is emergent. It may save your life or the life of someone you love.
- Fever >38.5˚C within 24 hours– fevers aren’t a bad thing, but when a child or infant’s core temperature reaches >38.5˚C (>102˚F) the risk of febrile seizures increases. Febrile seizure often occur within the first 24 hours of an illness and spontaneously resolve without any treatment interventions (Preux et al, 2015). Seizures lasting >5 minutes can lead to convulsions and should be emitted to the ER immediately.
- Excessive vomiting or diarrhea– dehydration is serious. Excessive and prolonged vomiting or diarrhea without adequate fluid and electrolyte replacement is reason to go to the ER and get an IV drip.
- Tripod slump with difficulty breathing– Epiglottitis is an emergent condition. The epiglottis is a piece of flesh at the back of the throat, which helps direct the flow of food, fluid or air down the right passage. When it becomes inflamed it can limit air supply and any manipulation (ie. using a tongue depressor to look into the throat) can cause more irritation and inflammation. A child in a stooped over position with their elbow on their knees, tense neck muscles, difficulty breathing and with a confused or dazed expression needs to go to the hospital immediately.
- Heart or chest pain– if you have been diagnosed with angina and your nitroglycerine prescription doesn’t help after 3 attempts (5 minutes apart) then go to your local ER. Chest pain can be anything from heart burn (acid reflux) or indigestion to a heart attack, so don’t take a chance. If you notice a bluish tinge to the lips or nails, swelling in the legs, and pain in the neck/ jaw/ shoulder this indicates poor blood flow and a more serious condition.
- Trouble breathing– if no treatments helps to alleviate poor airflow (ie. Heimlich, asthma treatment, etc) don’t wait for the condition to worsen, go to the ER. If you are trained, be ready to administer CPR while waiting for assistance if the person stops breathing.
- Anaphylaxis– Parents and people with severe allergies should always carry an Epi-Pen (Epinepherine dose) with them. If there is trouble breathing or a systemic (full body) reaction, administering a single dose will prolong the symptoms so that you can get to your local hospital.
- Broken bones and concussions- if you suspect broken bones or a concussion then head to the ER immediately. If a bone naturally sets improperly it may require re-braking and more time to heal.
- Persistent infections and swelling– if a cut becomes infected and the inflamed red area is steadily expanding or causing red streaks up the limb, go to the ER straight away. This could be a potential infection going into your blood stream and can be life-threatening. Read more especially if you have diabetic neuropathy.
- Extreme neck pain or the worse headache of your life– meningitis, temporal arteritis, and subarachnoid hemorrhage are serious conditions for common symptoms of neck pain and headache but at it’s utmost extremes.
- Sharp abdominal pain– if there is a fever, sharp lower right abdominal pain (can start off on the bottom left side) and possible vomiting, this can indicate appendicitis, which needs acute hospitalization and surgery
- Excruciating lower back/ side pain– Kidney infections can be life-threatening. If you have a fever and the slightest touch to the lower back (just below the ribs) causes excruciating pain, go to the ER immediately.
- Fainting with one-sided loss of control– when a seizure is followed by slurring of words or difficulty controlling one-side of the body this is most likely a stroke
- Seizure– unprovoked fainting, uncontrolled convulsions, unconscious jerking or unexplained distant stares may indicate a seizure. Seizures can be caused by various things and can cause brain damage if it is prolonged. Call for an ambulance if unexplained seizures are experienced.
- Unprovoked drunken behavior– slurring of speech, in coordination, blurry vision or an intoxicated appearance unprovoked may indicate a neurological disorder or a drug interaction.
- Coffee ground-like material in the stool– when blood and bile mix together they create a coffee ground-like appearance in the stool, which indicates an upper GI bleed. This warrants a visit to the hospital especially if pain and lethargy is experienced.
- Excessive blood from any orifice (nose, eye, ear, mouth, anus, vagina, urethra)- When blood is present from a body’s orifice, that means there is an internal lesion that could be dangerous. If the bleeding is excessive or found upon coughing, urinating or coming from the ear, this warrants a visit to the ER.
- Burn to > 5% of the body– any 3rd degree burn or excessive burn of >5% of an adult body or 2-3% of a child’s body needs to be treated in an emergency setting.
- Suicidal thoughts or attempts– if a person you know is attempting or planning to commit suicide take them to the ER or call 9-1-1. Hospitals have protocols in place to help people suffering from depression and suicidal ideation. Ideally, have the person accept your help and go willingly. Don’t trick them to go and break your trust.
- Drug overdose, negative interactions or poisoning– if you witness someone accidentally or intentionally get poisoned by drugs or toxic substances, take them straight to the ER or call poison control. Make sure to bring the person and the substance used to help identify the best treatment plan.
For other at-home remedies click on the image and the condition links below:
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