Vacation First Aid: Take Safe Botanicals Along on Your Travels

When you're packing for summer vacation, don't forget to include a first-aid kit with safe, natural remedies. While herbal medicines have been used for millennia, they are increasingly subject to scientific study, helping us better understand how they work.

Summer Safety

When you need an insect repellent, think safety first. Research highlights adverse effects of DEET, malathion, and permethrin (used alone or in combination), particularly among the young. Look for safe, natural repellents using essential oils of cedarwood, citronella, eucalyptus, geranium, and pine.

To help prevent tick bites-and lower the risk of Lyme disease-wear protective clothing in tick-infested grassy or wooded areas. The essential oil of palmarosa (Cymbo pgon martini), added to a natural insect repellent, is a particularly effective tick deterrent. Carefully remove any ticks you find with tweezers and disinfect bites with tea tree oil. Report any bull's-eye rash to your healthcare provider immediately.

Travel-Related Ailments

Diarrhea, heat rash, motion sickness, poison ivy, sleeplessness, and sunburn are nuisances at any age-but can make kids (and anyone around them) downright miserable. It helps to keep your own and your family's individual health needs in mind. For carsickness, it's best to drink a little ginger tea before you drive off-and to bring along a thermos of tea, organic fruit, nuts, and whole-grain crackers. Chamomile tea is a time-honored natural solution for sleeplessness. And after too much fun in the sun, aloe vera or calendula creams or gels can help soothe burns.

First Aid Kit

While prevention is always best, no one can avoid all the potential problems that summer or vacation travel may bring. Think basic and then pack your first-aid supplies in a handy, portable case that will fit easily into your car. Items to consider include the following:

  • adhesive bandages, various sizes
  • adhesive tape
  • aloe vera gel
  • antiseptic wipes
  • arnica cream
  • calendula or calamine lotion
  • cleansing agent/natural soap
  • cold pack
  • cotton swabs
  • flashlight
  • homeopathic eye drops
  • non-petroleum jelly
  • packet of tissues
  • Rescue Remedy flower essences
  • rolled gauze bandages (3 rolls)
  • safety pins (assorted sizes)
  • scissors, preferably blunt
  • sewing needle
  • sterile gauze pads
  • sunblock/sunscreen
  • thermometer
  • tweezers
  • zinc lozenges

Don't Forget

Avoid dehydration when traveling by taking along plenty of bottled water. Adults should aim for six to eight cups of water on a typical day. Help children stay hydrated by offering liquids regularly. Shelf-stable, single-serve 100 percent juices and dairy drinks help boost fluid intake-and are healthy alternatives to soft drinks.

In addition to sunscreen, pack a hat and pair of sunglasses for every member of the family for first-class sun protection. The best plan is to be prepared, and have a safe and healthy summer.

selected sources Healing Home Spa by Valerie Gennari Cooksley, RN ($19.95, Prentice Hall, 2003); Smart Medicine for a Healthier Child by Janet Zand, ND, LAc; Robert Rountree, MD; Rachel Walton, RN ($22.95, Penguin Group/Avery, 2003); Travel Healthy: The Smart Traveler's Guide to Staying Well Anywhere by Lalitha Thomas ($9.95, Hohm Press, 2002)

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