What to include in your natural first aid kit this summer
We’re on the road again and we couldn’t be happier.
For our family, pursuing adventure together is becoming part of our DNA. The past two weeks we’ve been traveling down the West coast, starting from our home outside Vancouver, Canada and making our way through Washington and Oregon all the way to the Bay area in California.
The original impulse for this trip came out as a result of something called Maker Faire, a massive fair in San Mateo, CA, designed to equip, inspire and educate “makers”… be they entrepreneurs, programmers, inventors, or what have you.
It was wonderfully quirky and I quickly fell in love with this place where “it’s cool to be smart.” Our kids were offered opportunities to learn to solder, code, create and use robots, build circuits with LED lights, polish stones, watch drones battle each other, build Guinness-record setting style paper airplanes, and just generally, innovate. Highly recommend this to anyone, home educators or not.
To keep things cheap, we’ve been tent trailer camping our way across the country, and visiting as many beaches, rocky coasts, forests, mountains, and other outdoor wonderlands as possible.
With nature exploration (and road trips in general, actually) comes owies, tummy upsets, bug bites, rashes, headaches, sunburn and the like. Our kids are pretty much fearless and if they see a tree, they won’t stop until they’ve climbed it (scraped knees and banged up elbows be hanged).
Though we’re traveling with the massive medicine kit I originally put together for our trip around the world, it’s not quite necessary for shorter stints on the road.
For those wanting something small and simple, I created a list of what I would put in a small first aid kit of natural remedies, just perfect for your summer travels.
5 things to include in a natural first aid kit
1. Herbal salve
Whether you buy or make your own herbal healing salve, this is my #1 don’t-leave-home-without-it recommendation. We use this salve to soothe, encourage faster healing and prevent infection for any sort of cuts, scrapes, rashes, bites, or burns (after they’ve stopped burning).
My favorite brands are Apple Valley Natural Soap and Bulk Herb Store, though there are many out there.
2. Activated charcoal
I love activated charcoal for its toxin-drawing qualities. We find it extremely effective for painful bug bites, like spider or ant bites. We’ve even used it to heal deep skin infections.
You can also take in capsule form for almost any sort of digestive upset (gas, upset stomach, food poisoning, diarrhea, etc.). For adults, we swallow two capsules with water. For kids, we crack open a capsule into a spoonful of raw honey or apple sauce to make the medicine go down.
If charcoal isn’t your thing, and I’ll confess it can be messy, clay is my other go-to remedy. It can be mixed with water for digestive upsets, similar to charcoal. It’s also the perfect quick remedy for itchy bug bites, especially mosquito bites.
Powdered is the cheapest form to buy it in and you can always mix it with more water for taking internally, or less for making a thick paste for skin. I happen to like the tubes of hydrated first aid clay, just because they are so convenient while traveling or when you need it fast.
3. Essential oils
Essential oils are a handy remedy to keep with you at all times. Some of the cheapest single oils are the most useful for a variety of issues. My top three picks are:
- Peppermint for digestion, headaches, motion sickness, seasonal threats, and cooling (for over-heated bodies)
- Lavender for relaxation/calm, difficulty falling asleep, applying directly to burns (both sunburns and from fire/hot water), insect bites.
- Tea tree as a scratch-cleanser (mixed with water), for rashes and skin soothing, cleaning/disinfecting while camping.
Nina from Shalom Mama recommends frankincense as well. This is a pricier oil, but it has a myriad of uses.
4. Aloe gel
Since you’re not likely to bring the potted plant off your kitchen windowsill, a small tube of straight aloe vera gel (look for one that is as close to 100% aloe as possible) is perfect for applying immediately to sunburns to cool and relieve the pain.
After the initial burning has stopped, herbal salve can also be used to aid faster healing. Wet chamomile tea bags will also work on burns in a pinch.
5. EmergenC drinks
When we traveled to Arizona years ago, we carried these small drink packets with us. Being from Canada, the heat was a bit much for us and we sometimes felt light-headed or struggled with mild heat stroke, as well as the usual dehydration that you have to be aware of in high heat or dry climates.
The electrolytes in this drink are particularly useful for helping to combat dehydration and heat stroke. The regular EmergenC does have fructose (sugar) in it, but they also carry a special electrolyte mix that is sweetened with stevia (and barely at that – I usually add an extra drop or two of stevia to improve the taste).
Honorable mentions go to:
CleanWell hand sanitizer – This triclosan-free hand sanitizer is always in both my diaper bag and medicine kit. It’s the best all-natural sanitizer I’ve found so far and readily available in most natural/health stores, plus oodles of online shops.
Vitamin C/Zinc lozenges – Sometimes the stress of travel can lower the immune system, not to mention being exposed to different bugs or viruses in new places. Lozenges with vitamin C and zinc are a simple thing to carry for immune boosting and can help with a sore throat or cough as well. Just look for a brand with minimal sweeteners and no coloring.
Natural candied ginger or ginger gum – I love this for motion sickness, on long car rides, windy mountain roads, flights, etc. The ginger helps with nausea, and if you choose the gum, it combats painful ear popping with elevation changes. We also will use a dab of peppermint oil on pulse points. An even more specific oil blend for motion sickness is MotionEaze, which we brought on our round-the-world trip.
Arnica Gel – For kids who are particularly prone to bumps and bruises, arnica is a wonderful homeopathic remedy that helps to relieve pain, swelling and bruising. I apply it whenever someone comes back with something that looks like it’s going to be a doozie and it does help.
I’ve linked to Amazon for most of these products, as this is where I find the best prices on many items. However, I probably shop equally as often at Vitacost. If you’ve never shopped there before (and I highly recommend you check it out – their prices really are very competitive), you can use my referral link to pick up at $10 off coupon, good on any size order.
As we’ve traveled, we’ve had a few cuts and scrapes, some headaches, a cut lip, motion sickness, a burn, and the like over the course of this two-week trip, but nothing so major that my little kit couldn’t come to the rescue.
Our trip ends today and though we’re eager to get back home, we’re already scheming where else we might want to visit this summer, like renting a house on the coast with friends, or more camping. I’d love to hear what your own summer plans are!
I really enjoy reading your blog. I also really enjoy this post. I’ve never really had a first aid kit, but than again we don’t often go anywhere. I will certainly be keeping this post to check out some of the items you mentioned. Thanks.
I also really enjoyed reading about your year long trip. I have a question, though. How do you find the money? Do you just charge everything or do you actually make a budget and save the money? We are on a pretty strict budget, my husband is self employed and doesn’t get vacation pay deducted (but we do save for vacations via a sinking fund), and we are just paying off the last little bit of credit card debt we have. We are already investing as well. But honestly, we are married almost 12 years (in June) and we have only gone on big trips twice (within the first half of our marriage) and that was back when we just put them on credit. We live on the Canadian praires. Last summer, our one and only vacation was to go to a family camp for a week (which was awesome) but I have longed to travel and see the world my whole life (my parents never traveled) and I have never been anywhere outside of Canada besides the U.S. Anyway, I know that this isn’t your problem, but I really am curios how you do it.
We keep many similar items in our kit. We’ll be adding charcoal/clay this year once I am able to determine which my family prefers. For travelling first aid kits, an astragulus supplement is a must for our family. Like mentioned in the post, travelling can cause stress (especially in my young children), plus new pathogens can place a greater strain on the immune system. The astragulus gives our white blood cell count a boost to help our bodies be ready to fight off any illness that comes our way. Our local health store carries a supplement with dosages by weight for simple administration. Once we’re back home though, that is put away until illness strikes or our next trip.
Would any of those salves be useful for poison ivy?
Great list and great reminder that it’s a good idea to bring some of these things along on trips! Our family has just joined a Maker group here locally that’s just getting started – such a cool concept!
Thanks for sharing, great information!
Your trip looks like a great adventure. Thank you so much for sharing all of your ideas. This is a great list!
Thank you so much for the wonderful information! I also carry Nux Vomica homeopathic pills for upset stomachs- they’re really wonderful!
Anything natural one can do for ticks?
Great things to keep with you! My first aid kit looks about the same, with an everyday oils kit to cover all the bases. Glad the Roller Bottle of Frankincense has come in handy for you. 😉
Saving this one… thanks Stephanie!
Very informative! Thank you so much for writing this.
thanks! I’ve been trying to figure out natural remedies I want to try for mosquito bites, I saw a couple of things for bug bites mentioned, including the clay. sounds like that is your favorite for mosquito bites? do you use that when you’re not traveling as well? or do you make one of the recipes I’ve seen for homemade calamine lotion or something when you have more time and space? or is the clay by itself still effective enough? mosquito season, ugh!
I would love to know more about all the ins and outs of your families year long travel. Are you planning on posting anymore about that? I really want to know more about the actual logistics and also what you did as far as sightseeing.