A well-stocked first-aid kit may spare you visits to urgent care centers and emergency rooms. It can also prevent complications from injuries. When you’re uncomfortable, searching or shopping for remedies prolongs the misery. It’s especially bothersome when away from home, like on vacation.

However, with portable medical supplies, you gain quick relief. By using natural treatments, you avoid contact with harsh chemicals and preservatives that can trigger allergic reactions. Plus, you target the source of problems, whereas pharmaceuticals may only address the symptoms. Here’s what to pack in your emergency kit, so you’re ready for common calamities.

SOOTHING BALMS

Aloe

This cooling fluid comes from the plump leaves of a succulent called aloe vera. The plant grows well indoors, where it’s handy for treating sunburns, scalds, and minor kitchen burns. The bottled gel is convenient for travel. Aloe relieves skin inflammation, hinders infection, and improves circulation.

To use aloe, smooth on a generous amount of gel and massage into skin. Repeat as needed. You can buy aloe gel online and at natural food stores. Opt for pure products with a high percentage of aloe, free of dyes, perfumes, and preservatives.

Note that aloe is only suitable for first- or second-degree burns. With such injuries, the skin may be red, painful, and mildly swollen or blistered. However, a third-degree burn is painless since the nerve endings are damaged. Additionally, the skin is white, yellow, brown, or black. For a third-degree wound, don’t apply aloe. Instead, have someone take you to the nearest urgent care center.

Arnica

This ointment, derived from the flowers of Arnica montana, quickly reduces joint pain, muscle aches, bruising, and swelling. Anti-inflammatory compounds boost circulation, dispersing fluid buildup. Antioxidants in arnica strengthen damaged blood vessels, expediting their repair.

Rub arnica into the affected area up to four times daily, provided your skin isn’t broken. You’ll find arnica creams, gels, and roll-ons in pharmacies and natural food stores.

CBD Oil

CBD is an abbreviation for cannabidiol, an oil sourced from industrial hemp. Although hemp and marijuana are related, CBD doesn’t cause the “high” induced by pot. This is because marijuana contains high levels of a substance called THC, whereas CBD does not. Once THC enters the body, it travels to the brain, stimulating hormones that produce a euphoric state.

Legally, products marketed as CBD must have less than 0.3 percent THC. With such low potency, CBD can’t impair your mental function.

Did you know that your body makes several types of pain-killing compounds? Among them are endocannabinoids. CBD helps you process them more efficiently. Meanwhile, CBD hampers the release of inflammatory chemicals. Plus, it subdues pain receptors, nerve endings in the skin that register hurt, notifying your brain.

Some CBD producers enhance its benefits by adding analgesic herbs and essential oils, such as arnica and lavender. Topical hemp is available as CBD roll-on sticks and creams.

ESSENTIAL OILS

If this term is unfamiliar, essential oils are concentrated plant extracts with therapeutic scents and qualities. Typically, the extracts are obtained through cold pressing or steam distillation. Since essential oils are sold in small vials, they’re ideal for stowing in your first-aid kit.

Certain essential oils are antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, anti-itch, and analgesic, such as those described below. To help you find the right plant species when shopping, botanical names are shown in parentheses.

Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

Despite its sharp aroma, basil is kind to skin, soothing the pain of spider bites and bee stings.

Citronella (Cymbopogon nardus)

This essential oil repels insects by masking the lactic acid and carbon dioxide our bodies emit, which flag the attention of biting bugs, like mosquitoes. However, the bright, lemony scent is pleasant for us, easing headaches and tension. Plus, applying citronella to minor scrapes and cuts wards off infection.

Here’s a simple recipe for a natural repellant. Into a spray bottle, pour 1/2 cup witch hazel, 1/2 cup water, and 30 drops of citronella essential oil. Shake well, and spritz on skin or apparel. For the best bite protection, reapply citronella every three hours.

Avoid inhaling the pure oil, as it can inflame your throat, nose, and bronchial passages. When using citronella spray, aim the bottle away from your eyes.

German Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla)

This herb combats skin redness, itching, burning, and swelling while facilitating healing. It also calms fussy and overtired babies.

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)

Apply this oil to soothe insect bites and stings. While curbing infection, lavender reduces pain, itching, and inflammation. Its dreamy scent relieves anxiety and insomnia.

Rose Geranium Pelargonium capitatum x radens

This essential oil diverts ticks while treating the pain and inflammation of other insect bites. To make a tick repellant, into a spray bottle, pour 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, 1 cup water, and 10 drops rose geranium essential oil. Shake well, and spray on your skin and clothing.

Tea Tree Oil (Melaleuca alternifolia)

As a natural disinfectant, tea tree oil kills bacteria, fungi, and viruses. With antihistamine effects, it quells the itching, pain, and swelling of insect bites. Apply to an affected area up to three times daily.

Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)

Use this extract to clean sores, scrapes, blisters, cuts, insect bites, and stings. Witch hazel diffuses swelling, pain, and bruises. It also cools inflamed skin, as in sunburns and cooking burns.

You’ll find witch hazel in most grocery stores and pharmacies, sold in bottles and pads. Choose alcohol-free products since they’re less drying to skin.

Application Guidelines

Before applying an essential oil, be sure to dilute it with a carrier oil. Otherwise, your skin may get irritated, with possible redness, itching, rash, and dryness. Another advantage of carrier oils is facilitating essential oil absorption.

Optimal carrier oils are sweet almond, avocado, apricot, olive, and anti-fungal coconut oil. To treat a small body area, mix one drop of essential oil with one teaspoon of your chosen carrier. Then, gently massage the mixture into your skin. Repeat every four hours, as needed. Essential and carrier oils are sold by natural food stores and online retailers.

Child Safety

Note that essential oils are contraindicated for babies less than six months of age. For children ages six months to 10 years, mix one drop essential oil with two teaspoons of carrier oil. Of the essential oils mentioned above, those safe for babies and young kids are German chamomile, lavender, and tea tree oil, provided they’re diluted.

As a precaution, before using these oils on large skin areas, do a patch test first. Taking no more than a dime-sized amount of diluted essential oil, apply it sparingly on a child’s arm or leg. Over 24 hours, monitor for an allergic reaction.

If there’s no redness, irritation, or pain sensitivity, the essential oil should be safe to use. If irritation occurs, thoroughly wash the skin with soap and water.

Storage Tips

For packing convenience, store your oil mixtures in dark rollerball bottles, available online. For example, a 10ml rollerball bottle holds two teaspoons of carrier oil.

TUMMY AND IMMUNITY STANDBYS

Ginger

This anti-inflammatory spice soothes coughing, sore throat, nausea, gas, and stomach cramps. It’s also delightfully warming. For ease of use, pack ginger lozenges.

Peppermint

The herb resolves indigestion and clears blocked sinuses, available as tea and peppermint pastilles, such as Altoids.

Elderberry

Sold as capsules and lozenges, this herb strengthens immunity. Take elderberry to protect against colds and flu. Should you contract them, elderberry will speed your recovery.

Zinc Lozenges

The mineral zinc fortifies immunity and expedites wound healing. If you take zinc lozenges within 24 hours of getting a cold, the mineral will reduce cold duration and symptom severity. To avoid overdosing, don’t ingest more than 15 mg of zinc per day. Package labels indicate the amount of zinc per lozenge.

Due to the choking hazard, do not give zinc lozenges to children younger than 13 years of age.

MISCELLANEOUS SUPPLIES

Baking Soda

A poultice of baking soda alleviates the pain and itch of mosquito bites and bee stings. Make one by mixing the powder and enough water to form a paste and apply to skin. Once symptoms abate, rinse off the paste, replacing it with an ice pack wrapped in a wet washcloth. Keep in place for five minutes. The cold will combat swelling.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Use 3 percent hydrogen peroxide to cleanse wounds, minor cuts, and abrasions. Then, rinse with water.

Rubbing Alcohol

Another antiseptic cleanser, rubbing alcohol removes poison ivy oils. Apply rubbing alcohol to irritated skin, followed by washing with soap and cool water. Gently pat your skin dry. Then, for itch relief, pass the inner peel of a banana over the rash. For your first-aid kit, buy a bottle of rubbing alcohol and a box of swabs, packaged individually.

Treatment Accessories

Other must-have supplies are small scissors, tweezers, an instant-read thermometer, surgical tape, gauze pads, ace bandages for joint sprains, cotton balls, moleskin to buffer foot blisters, and a box of assorted bandages.

FIRST-AID CONTAINERS

To minimize spills, buy small bottles of aloe, witch hazel, hydrogen peroxide, and rubbing alcohol. Then, place them inside food storage bags, secured with twist-ties. Store essential oils in zip-lock bags. Tupperware containers can house larger items, such as treatment accessories. Empty tins are perfect for ginger, zinc, and elderberry lozenges.

You may already have suitable containers for carrying your supplies. Examples are a toolbox, suitcase, tackle box, pelican case, backpack, or large plastic bin. Other options to consider buying are an EMT pouch or scuba dry case.

EVER READY

Once you’ve assembled your first-aid kit, you’ll enjoy greater peace of mind. You’ll be ready to handle an array of possible incidents. For healing balms, pack aloe, arnica, and CBD oil. To target insects, stock essential oils of basil, citronella, German chamomile, lavender, rose geranium, and tea tree oil.

Ensure their safe application by adding a bottle of carrier oil, such as coconut or olive. Or, pre-mix your ingredients, storing them in convenient rollerball bottles.

Additional natural cleansers are witch hazel, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and rubbing alcohol. To aid digestion and boost immunity, pack ginger, peppermint, elderberry, and zinc lozenges. Then, add your treatment accessories, including scissors, tweezers, and Band-Aids.

Ideally, keep one natural first-aid kit in your vehicle trunk and another in your home. Accidents will be no match for you!

Note—the above information cannot replace professional medical advice. For serious accidents and injuries, consult your physician or head to your nearest urgent care center or hospital emergency room.

About the author

Kara Masterson

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