You’d love a natural cure for bug bites, bee stings, sunburn, dehydration and other summer woes that can befall your child. But perhaps you’re not convinced those natural remedies will really do the job. “Some parents are skeptical that natural cures don’t work as well as conventional over-the-counter treatments—you know the ones loaded with chemicals you can’t pronounce,” says pediatrician Lawrence Rosen, MD, co-author of Treatment Alternatives For Children, and a founding member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Complementary and Integrative Medicine. “But for many common pediatric conditions natural remedies are safer, more cost-effective and work just well—if not better—than conventional medications.”
These nine natural remedies are OK to use for babies on up. “There are no med interactions I know of with any of these and allergies are very rare,” says Dr. Rosen, “but you should check the label—and be open with your doctor about all treatments you are using.” If you think immediate medical attention is necessary, or a problem gets worse with a home treatment, call your doctor.
A natural cure for insect bites 1 of 9
"For pesky insect bites, go to your kitchen cabinet before your medicine cabinet," says Dr. Rosen. "Baking soda has alkaline properties that help neutralize insect bites." Mix the powder with a bit of water to make a paste, then apply as needed until the pain and itching subside.
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A natural cure for stings 2 of 9
"'Like cures like'" is one of the core principles of homeopathic medicine, so for bee stings I recommend homeopathic Apis mellifica, derived from the honeybee," says Dr. Rosen. As with many homeopathic remedies, you can pick it up at Whole Foods, natural pharmacies and other stores carrying natural foods; go for the 30c strength. Administer a dose immediately after the sting to limit pain, redness and swelling. Dr. Rosen's Rx: "Give five pellets every 15 minutes for the first hour, placed under the tongue, then hourly for four hours and then every two to four hours for the remainder of the first 24 hours, while your child is awake. Then give five pellets three times a day for several days until any soreness or bruising has resolved." For kids who can't or won't put tablets under their tongue, he says,"dissolve five pellets in one ounce of water and let them sip every fifteen minutes for the first hour. Toss any excess, then repeat the pellet dissolve-and-sip each hour for four hours, until your child goes to sleep."
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A natural cure for sunburn 3 of 9
"If you have one plant in your house, it should be Aloe vera," says Dr. Rosen. "The sticky gel found inside its spiky leaves contains numerous natural chemicals that block pain, itching, inflammation and infection, while increasing circulation to speed healing." The cure is as old as the hills: Medical use dates back 6000 years to ancient Egypt, based on stone carvings. Buy the stuff if you don't have a plant around, and apply as often as needed to soothe skin.
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A natural cure for dehydration 4 of 9
You tell your kids to drink up on hot days, but (shocker!) they don't always listen. Signs of dehdyration in children include sleepiness or tiredness, thirst and decreased urine output—no wet diapers for three hours for infants, and eight hours or more sans pee for older kids. "Consider coconut water, perhaps nature's best rehydration solution," recommends Dr. Rosen. "Rich in natural electrolytes, coconut water is now readily available and provides a holistic option to stay hydrated on those hot summer days."
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A natural cure for bumps and bruises 5 of 9
Reach for the homeopathic remedy Arnica montana ("wounded herb"), which is from the daisy family. "It can be applied in ointment form, or taken orally in homeopathic form, under the tongue," says Dr. Rosen. His recommendation is the same as for Apis: Five pellets every 15 minutes for the first hour, then hourly for four hours and then every two to four hours for the remainder of the first 24 hours, while the child is awake. Continue with five pellets three times a day for several days until any soreness or bruising has resolved. For kids who won't down tablets, dissolve five pellets in one ounce of water and let them sip every fifteen minutes for the first hour. Toss the remainder, then repeat the dissolve-and-sip each hour for four hours, until your child goes to sleep.
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A natural cure for swimmer’s ear 6 of 9
"Some kids swim so much each summer you'd swear they'll grow gills!" says Dr. Rosen. "Not likely, but some do get horrible earaches known as swimmer's ear, an infection and inflammation of the ear canal." Two natural remedies: Place a few drops of apple cider vinegar in the affected ear three for four times a day; it contain acetic acid, "proven effective in treating the pain and swelling," says Dr. Rosen. Another option: Crush a garlic glove in a tablespoon of olive oil, and warm slightly on the stove, stirring well. Mix well and strain out the garlic pieces, being careful not to make the liquid hot—even room temperature is OK. Place a few drops into the affected ear until the pain abates. Notes Dr. Rosen, "Both garlic and olive oil and have natural anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties."
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A natural cure for scrapes 7 of 9
Derived from the marigold, Calendula officinalis has what Dr. Rosen calls "potent wound healing capabilities." It comes in ointment, cream and gel formulations, he says, "and it's so safe that it's included in many baby diaper rash products. Apply topically as needed, usually three times a day."
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A natural cure for motion sickness 8 of 9
Got a kid who gets a little queasy on road or plane trips? Go for ginger, says Dr. Rosen: "All forms of the natural anti-nausea gem can be helpful, including capsules or teas." His prescription: "Give a small amount before you go and regularly throughout the journey as needed. For tea, do one to two ounces every few hours; for capsules, give children half of the adult version every four hours if needed."
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A natural cure for impetigo 9 of 9
Cuts and scrapes infected with staph or bacteria can lead to crusty, oozing impetigo. "Try honey, not by mouth but directly on the skin," suggests Dr. Rosen. (This is only for tots ages one and up, to avoid the botulism risk.) "One special kind of honey, Manuka from New Zealand sold in Whole Foods and other markets, has incredible natural antibacterial properties. Apply a small amount to the infected area three times a day and prepare to be amazed."
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