First-Aid Tips for Gardeners and Farmers

Follow these simple, safe and effective first-aid tips to soothe sunburns, blisters, bug bites and other minor injuries.


| April/May 2015



Oats and Honey

Oats, honey and aloe are readily available first-aid ingredients that help soothe irritated and inflamed skin.


Photo by Hannah Kincaid

Hauling compost, digging garden beds and wrangling ornery livestock are just a few of the farm and garden tasks that can be hard on your body. Even the healthiest homesteaders are susceptible to bee stings and sunburns. Fortunately, your kitchen and backyard are probably already stocked with a multitude of safe and effective cures for a number of minor woes. Here are 12 first-aid tips for ways to soothe everything from bug bites and banged-up shins to blisters, burns and back pain. These first-aid tips are adapted from 500 Time-Tested Home Remedies and the Science Behind Them, co-authored by Barbara Seeber, Barbara Brownell Grogan and me.

Poisonous Plants: Ivy, Oak and Sumac

Prevention. The best way to protect yourself from this itchy, blister-causing trio is to wear protective clothing, including pants, long sleeves and gloves, whenever you work in areas where these plants may grow. Anytime you think your skin or clothing may have made contact with their leaves, immediately remove and wash your clothing in hot water and take a shower. If you know your hands or arms touched the leaves, wash these areas as soon as possible with a skin cleanser, such as Tecnu, which is designed to remove the blister-causing urushiol oil that these plants produce. Some people are severely allergic to these plants, while others are totally immune. If you know you’re allergic, you may want to apply a preventive barrier cream, such as Ivy X Pre-Contact Skin Solution, before working outside.

Treatment. If you do develop a bad rash with blisters, follow these first-aid tips for making an oatmeal bath or oatmeal paste to relieve the itching. Oats (Avena sativa) have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Applied topically, oats moisturize the skin and decrease itching. To draw an oatmeal bath, pour 2 to 3 cups of rolled or colloidal oats into a sock, cloth, bag or bandana to contain the particles and help with cleanup. (You can make colloidal oats in your food processor by blending oats to a powder.) Place the sock in a tub full of warm water. Climb in and soak for at least 15 minutes. Avoid using soap, which will only dry and further irritate your skin.

To make an oatmeal paste, combine 1 tablespoon of colloidal oats with 1 teaspoon of baking soda. Gradually add just enough water to form a paste and mix well. Apply to irritated areas. After it’s dry, rinse the paste off with warm water.

Bug Bites and Stings

Treatment. Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is anti-inflammatory, analgesic (pain-killing) and calming. Keep a frozen lavender-infused cloth or a simple lavender and baking soda paste on hand for the next time your path collides with a poisonous, panicky pollinator.

To make a lavender-infused frozen cloth, wet a washcloth with water and wring out the excess moisture. Squeeze 5 drops of lavender essential oil on the wet cloth, place it inside a resealable bag, and store it in the freezer. When you get stung, remove the cloth from the bag and apply it directly to the inflamed area. It will help reduce swelling and relieve pain.





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