As a mom, I can verify that kids have more bumps, bug bites and scrapes than anyone else in the family. Yet most over-the-counter (OTC) remedies have side effects that are risky to our little ones. Here are some of my favorite picks for smarter, safer alternatives that are especially good to have on hand in the spring and summer. Most of these can be used for kids as young as 2 years old as well as the adults in your household.
* For painful bruises and bumps: Apply an ice pack to the area: 10 minutes on, then 10 minutes off. Ice helps relieve pain and reduce swelling, without the risk of serious side effects associated with aspirin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen. Similasan Arnica Active Spray might also be effective.
* For minor cuts and scrapes: Look for creams that contain calendula, which helps stimulate healing. My family uses Calendula Intensive Skin Recovery by Weleda. It contains beeswax, sesame oil and calendula.
* For itchy skin caused by bug bites, poison ivy or poison oak: Oatmeal can help calm and soothe skin itching, but ready-made products can be expensive. Instead, grind whole oats in a coffee grinder to release their oils. Put a half cup of the ground oats into the bath water. Add a couple drops of lavender. Another alternative is Desert Essence tea tree oil skin ointment. Tea tree oil has antiseptic, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. It can help take the itch out of bug bites, and it’s great for minor cuts and irritations.
* For foot fungus: Kids tend to get athlete’s foot because their feet get moist from playing sports, or they spend a lot of time at the neighborhood pool. Make a foot soak by putting a couple of drops of tea tree oil into a small basin of water.
* For red, itchy eyes: Allergies are common this time of year, and can lead to itchy, watery eyes. Be careful about using OTC medicated eye drops because they contain vasoconstrictor drugs, which have side effects if overused. Similasan Allergy Eye Relief is a natural option. It helps to stimulate the body’s own healing ability and provides soothing relief. It doesn’t contain harsh chemicals, and you don’t have to worry about the rebound effect.
* For motion sickness: OTC products for motion sickness can cause significant drowsiness and dizziness. Ginger is a safer alternative. It contains anti-inflammatory and antioxidant ingredients that help calm a queasy stomach. A few brands that I really like are Solary Ginger Trips, which are chewable, and Sea Band Ginger Gum. Most kids love ginger ale made with real ginger, such as Reed’s Ginger Brew, which is found in health food stores. I prefer this brand because it contains more ginger than others on the market.
* For sun protection: Natural, mineral-based sunscreens that contain titanium and/or zinc are safe for youngsters (even infants). Plus, they provide a physical barrier to the sun’s rays that is effective immediately. Chemical sunscreens, on the other hand, need to be applied at least 20 minutes before going into the sun. Look for Goddess Garden Organics sunscreens, which contain organic ingredients and are safe for sensitive skin. You can also find sun hats and shirts for kids that are rated SPF 50. And don’t forget the sunglasses. If you get your children used to wearing them while they are young, you may reduce their risk of developing cataracts and macular degeneration later in life. For skin that’s red and hurts from too much sun, apply cool compresses with pure aloe vera gel to alleviate pain and promote healing. For a list of sunscreens recommended by Boston Parents Paper, click here.
* For immune and digestive system support: Picnic season means an elevated risk of food-borne illnesses because it’s difficult to keep foods cooled to the proper temperature. Also, when we’re outdoors, hands may not always get washed before eating. Help children avoid diarrhea and other stomach upsets by giving them a daily probiotic supplement.
Having a well-stocked, family friendly medicine cabinet is smart. We never know when kids or adults will need one of these safe and natural items.
Sherry Torkos is a holistic pharmacist, author and certified fitness instructor. She has written 18 books, including Saving Women’s Hearts, The Canadian Encyclopedia for Natural Medicine, The Glycemic Index Made Simple, Winning at Weight Loss and Breaking the Age Barrier.