Build a Well-Stocked Natural First-Aid Kit
Every parent knows that light medical treatment is part of the gig. Whether it's a mild scrape, an upset tummy, or a simple cough, it’s smart to have a few supplies available to ensure a safe, natural, and speedy recovery for your little one. Although over-the-counter pharmaceutical medications and ointments can help to briefly alleviate some discomfort, they may do little to improve recovery, and can even interfere with the healing process! For instance, even when all you want to do is ease your child’s pain, using acetaminophen can end up suppressing a helpful fever. Keep in mind, a first aid kit isn't meant to act as a replacement for medical attention; if in doubt, always see your health care provider first! But for the normal bumps, bruises, and stings that seem to go hand-in-hand with childhood, a solid first aid kit is the perfect thing to have at the ready! Here’s your list!
Topical creams, gels, and ointments
Made from the marigold flower, calendula cream is one health product that is as close to magical as they come. Apply to superficial wounds (scrapes, burns, stings, rashes, and anything itchy) to alleviate inflammation and irritation, prevent infection, and promote skin healing. Look for a product that contains the highest percentage of pure calendula as possible for maximum benefits. Other helpful ingredients include comfrey (Symphytum) and plantain (Plantago).
Caution: Do not apply calendula cream to skin wounds deeper than a superficial scratch; it works so well that it can cause the upper skin to heal before the deeper tissue, potentially trapping germs.
Arnica cream or gel
Another close-to-magical product. Apply to unbroken skin for minor bumps, bruises, sprains, and strains. Homeopathic arnica (30C) can also be taken orally for the same purpose; most minor wounds will benefit from 2 pellets under the tongue, two to three times per day until resolved.
Caution: Do not apply arnica cream over any open wounds or broken skin.
Aloe vera gel
Apply to skin to alleviate mild burns and irritation. You can purchase aloe gel, making sure it contains mostly aloe, or you can keep a plant in your home, cut a chunk off, and swipe on some gel straight from the source. Kids love looking after plants that they can use!
Herbs for healing
Dry or fresh herbs can be consumed as teas or brewed and added to bath water. Make a tea using one teaspoon of dried herbs (or one tablespoon of fresh herbs) to one cup of water. For leafy herbs (all the ones listed below except for licorice), pour boiling water over the plant and let steep 10-15 minutes. Tough herbs made from the roots of plants, like licorice, are better prepared by simmering in water for 20 minutes or so. Double the concentration of herbs to make a strong infusion for the bath. They can also be used to make compresses for advanced-level home first aid! All the herbs listed below are safe for children in the short term; try a quarter to a half cup at a time. Teas can also be blended with fruit to make smoothies or popsicles.
For stomach upset, indigestion, and gas (also try anise, caraway, or peppermint).
For stomach upset and anxiety/nervousness; can help with sleep (also try lemon balm or passionflower).
For agitation and can help reduce a mild fever (also try yarrow or peppermint).
With a little honey, very helpful for alleviating a mild cough or sore throat.
First aid from the kitchen
Your kitchen is a treasure trove of healing goodness. Everyday kitchen staples you probably already have on hand can help alleviate cold symptoms, ease nausea, and help fight infections!
A potent all-round antimicrobial plant. Simply crush and apply to minor skin infections, eat raw for colds and flus, or infuse into olive oil for earaches.
Caution: Straight garlic can be irritating to the skin, so test in a small area, monitor closely, and consider diluting in something else like olive oil or honey (see below).
A tasty antimicrobial and soothing to irritated throats. Add to tea or take straight-up (a half teaspoon at a time) for sore throats and cough. Apply to minor skin infections (consider adding crushed garlic!).
Caution: Due to the risk of botulism, honey should only be consumed by children over the age of 12 months.
Antiviral, antimicrobial, and cleansing. Add one teaspoon to one cup of water and use to gargle, or use as a nose and sinus rinse inside a child-specific spray bottle or Neti pot. Can also be used to flush a wound.
An excellent anti-nauseant, without the sedative effects of pharmaceutical varieties. Slice finely and simmer in water (follow instructions for tough herbs, above).
Grapefruit seed extract
Not as common as the previous items, but worth having, this extract is a potent antimicrobial that has a powerful taste and packs a wallop! Add five drops to a half cup of water and use as a throat gargle (add some salt, too!), or swallow to prevent, or treat, the stomach flu. Be prepared with a glass of water—this stuff is intense!
Essential oils are highly concentrated and are created through a process called distillation, which pulls the oil from the plant and separates it. The resulting oil is an incredibly powerful essence of the plant, retaining the inherent beneficial qualities that can aid in healing. Keeping a few essential oils on hand, especially those that serve multi-purpose functions, can be a great way to round out that first aid kit!
Please keep in mind, essential oils can be irritating, and should always be diluted before applying to skin. Start with 5% essential oil to 95% carrier oil. Studies have shown that oils can be safely and effectively used in concentrations as high as 50% but discuss appropriate dilutions with your ND or healthcare provider before applying to the super sensitive skin of little ones. And as always, avoid use in pregnancy and with infants, and do not take internally.
Inhale to alleviate nausea and car sickness; dilute and apply topically for skin infections (ensuring that you avoid eye area).
Excellent all-purpose anti-microbial; dilute and apply topically for skin infections.
Anti-microbial and alleviates itchy skin; dilute and apply topically. The diluted oil can also be applied to the temples for anxiety, nerves, or headaches.
You may not know it yet, but you already have healing tools in your house that you don't need to run out and buy or grow. Your own caring touch can help many minor aggravations!
Acupressure points have been used for thousands of years to impact the function of the organs they influence. Press firmly and regularly with your thumb; you can also attach a small bead to a piece of tape and apply it over the point. The points below (except for Yin Tang) can be found on both sides of the body. When your child is feeling unwell, acupressure is a lovely way to connect and provide some hands-on TLC.
On the hands
The LI-4 point, located between the thumb and first finger, at the highest point where the muscle holds together the finger and thumb. Pressing on this point is helpful for any kind of pain, particularly headaches. It's also useful for digestive concerns, such as constipation.
On the forearms
The PC-6 point, located on the inside of the wrist, is beneficial to alleviate anxiety or nervousness, and can help with sleep; it also is useful for nausea…and hiccups! To find this point, simply lay three fingers across your child's wrist, starting at the base of the palm. You should notice the two tendons running parallel up the arm. Beside your index finger, and in between those two tendons, is the PC-6. Apply pressure there.
On the face
Try Yin Tang. Found between the eyebrows, this is a lovely point to soothe an anxious or wound-up child. Press or stroke this point with your child’s head on your lap, or on a pillow.
Kids get hurt and kids get sick. This is an expected part of childhood (and parenthood!), and how you respond can have a huge impact on your child's developing resilience. When they see you calmly assess the situation and take practical steps to help them feel better, they learn that they can fall down, get back up again, and cope with a bit of discomfort. Expanding your repertoire of first aid strategies that don't suppress your child's natural healing mechanisms means a more comfortable and resilient kid, and that means everything to us parents, doesn’t it?