Happy summer everyone! I’ve had a lot of questions lately about how to treat summer’s most common ailments. Here’s a glimpse of what I keep in my beach bag during these dog days of summer.
While 15-30 minutes of unprotected sunlight per day (for children over 6 months) is always helpful to boost our ever-deficient vitamin D levels, it is still important to protect against sunburn.
Did you know that nearly three quarters of all sunscreens are either ineffective or contain chemicals that are harmful to your health? Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide, are two natural and safe ingredients to look for in sunscreen – they protect against both UVA and UVB rays.
The easiest way to relieve sunburn, of course, is to avoid it altogether by applying plenty of natural sunscreen. But sometimes, despite our best intentions, even the most liberal application is no match for the sun’s harsh rays. If that happens, taking a cool bath right after the burn starts to appear is a good idea. Add 5-7 drops of anti-inflammatory peppermint oil or one cup of apple cider vinegar to a tepid bath.
As with every summer day, keep your child hydrated with plenty of water and cooling foods like cucumber and celery, which can help lower their body temperature. You can apply cucumber or potato slices to more localized burns.
The key with poison ivy is to wash your child’s skin and clothes right away after exposure to remove the plant’s oils. Then, apply a paste made of equal parts water and either baking soda or apple cider vinegar—two natural antiseptics that can help ease inflammation—to the affected areas. When looking for a topical ointment, I try to avoid steroid creams, like cortisone. Instead, try homeopathic Calendula cream The flowers of the Calendula officinalis plant, also known as Garden marigold, have been used topically for generations to heal skin irritations, such as minor burns and scrapes.
No one repellent will work every single time, against every ornery pest. The repellent you might use for a Lyme-infested area might be different from the one that would suffice for a picnic on the beach. So, it’s a good idea to do research about the diseases carried by insects specific to where you plan to spend time outside with your family.
As a general rule, it’s a good idea to take extra precautions to avoid tick bites. Cover your child with long sleeves and long pants, tucked into socks, when going for a hike or venturing into heavy brush where tick infestations are more common. Do a frequent “tick check,” taking care to examine the scalp and ears where ticks tend to hide. If you search the EWG’s guide to insect repellents, specifically for repellents for ticks, you’ll find it lists three natural active ingredients catnip (Nepeta cataria), citronella (Cymbopogon winterianus) and lemon eucalyptus (Eucalyptus citriodora).
If you’re a DIY person, you can certainly make your own essential oil-based sprays or lotions. The recipe I use is specifically targeted toward ticks, but is also helpful with mosquitos. It is safe for children 3 and older and pregnant/nursing moms. (Note: The EWG and Center for Disease Control (CDC) advises not to use Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus or PMD on children under 3. Please note that Natural lemon and eucalyptus oil is not the same as Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus. Although I don’t apply this directly to my 2 year old, I do spray it on his clothes and on the stroller when we are going outside.)
2 oz. apple cider vinegar or witch hazel
2 oz. water
20-40 drops total: geranium bourbon essential oil, citronella essential oil, and lemon eucalyptus oil (please note, lemon eucalyptus is not approved for children under the age of 3, so instead spray on their stroller or omit altogether and just use lemon!) I don’t love the smell of catnip oil, so I omit that one, but if you can tolerate it, it’s certainly worth adding. I also add: clove, rosemary, lavender, peppermint and geranium, for what I’ve found to be the perfect concoction!
Add to a spray bottle, preferably one made of glass or PET plastic.
Shake well before use. Spray on skin or clothes before going outside.
If you prefer something ready-made, I like Badger Bug or Nanucket Spider spray. Badger Bug is an organic and natural repellent uses essential oils to naturally keep bugs, mosquitoes and insects away from you and your children. It contains no DEET, petroleum products, or synthetic chemicals, and has been independently lab tested for safety. Even the aluminum bottle is recyclable!
Nantucket Spider Deet-free Bug Repellant is best for flies and mosquitoes and will also repel ticks (but doesn’t last as long as their Extra Strength Tick repellent! Both are light and refreshing sprays (people ask me what perfume I’m wearing!) made with a broad range of essential oils including cedarwood, citronella, clove,geranium, lemongrass, peppermint, rosemary, and spearmint.
Regardless of which product you choose to use, the key is to apply frequently, every 2 hours, more frequently if sweating or swimming. When using repellent on a child, apply it to your own hands first and then rub it onto the child. Avoid the child’s eyes and mouth and take care not to apply to hands as children may put their hands in their mouths.
Don’t forget your hourly “tick checks”! The scalp and ears is where these buggers like to hide the most.
- Bee stings
If you’re dealing with a bee sting, be sure to remove the stinger with a sterilized pair of tweezers. Then, apply the same water and baking soda or apple cider vinegar combination used to ease poison ivy. The paste will help reduce bee sting swelling and discomfort.
- Mosquito bites
For a mosquito bite, apply Witch Hazel, a natural astringent, to draw out the inflammatory fluid that causes swelling: Soak a piece of gauze in Witch Hazel and apply it to the skin, leaving it on as long as necessary until the itching stops. For multiple bites, a baking soda or apple cider vinegar bath can provide all-over relief.
SEE YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IF your child is having a more serious allergic reaction: swelling of the lips and tongue, or your child is having difficulty speaking, swallowing or breathing.
Swimmers ear, or otitis externa, is an infection of the outer ear that is most often due to moisture being trapped in the ear which results in inflammation and infection. Pain is often the first sign of otitis externa. So if your child complains of pain, it is important to have them evaluated by their healthcare provider in the event an infection has occurred. Swimmer’s ear is treated with antibiotics. Those with frequent infections my try a homemade solution of half rubbing alcohol and half vinegar. The alcohol combines with water in the ear and then evaporates, removing the water, while the acidity of the vinegar keeps bacteria from growing. Apply 3 drops of solution in each ear three times per day. You may also want to use the homemade remedy after daily showers. The best way to avoid otitis externa is to keep ears clean and dry.
BUMPS AND BRUISES
Arnica, derived from the arnica montana plant, has anti-inflammatory properties when diluted for homeopathic treatments. Arnica is a common homeopathic remedy for bruising, swelling, and inflammation. It can be used up to three times a day as a topical gel applied directly to an injury or bruise. The key is to apply or treat within an hour of the injury, to stimulate the body’s healing mechanism as quickly as possible. Do not use on open wounds.
Coconut water is a natural electrolyte drink rich in sodium and natural sugar, which is crucial for rehydration. I like to add a few drops of lemon essential oil to our big jug so we can enjoy a “lemonade” treat on those extra hot days.
There is no greater feeling than getting your feet in the sand at the beginning of summer. But that darn black sand is nearly impossible to get off! Many recommend baby power as the miracle means for removing sand from in between toes. Talc is an ingredient used in many cosmetics, including baby powder. However questions about baby powder’s safety are always a concern, as studies have shown talc to contain contaminants, such as asbestos, which is a known carcinogen. Instead, I pack a Norwex Dusting Mitt. It miraculously removes every last piece of sand on those little beach bodies! With its plush fibers the dusting mitt can be used dry to attract and pick up sand, dust, and allergens for quick, chemical free cleaning throughout the house, and dust those little sandy feet before heading back home. Used wet, the patented BacLock™ (a micro silver antibacterial agent) goes to work to lift and inhibit bacteria, virus, protein, mold and mildew growth. Perfect for washing hands before that ice cream cone on the boardwalk!
And of course my Tidal flip flops! Not only are they Made in the USA of domestically sourced material, but over half of Tidal’s staff are veterans. They continue to hire and train veterans as they expand and every pair purchased helps to support this effort.
Megan Jolin of Mother Earth Mama is a board certified Holistic Pediatric Nurse Practitioner whose passion is to bring health and wellness to the whole child. Megan provides consultation in:
-prenatal health and wellness
-nutritional analysis and counseling
-toxin free home environment
-self care for parents and children
-natural/integrative approach to common childhood illnesses
Disclaimer: Content on this site is for reference purposes and is not a substitute for advice from your health care professional. You should not rely solely on this content, and Mother Earth Mama assumes no liability for inaccuracies. These products and recommendations are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or condition.