Author: Mommy

Natural Remedies for Bug Bites and Bee Stings: #2 in our Natural First Aid Series

Well, it’s official. Sitting in the pre-tornado humidity of our Spring evening in Austin, it happened…my first mosquito bite of the season. Fighting back the urge to cry, “I’m not ready!”, I am reminding myself that this Friday for Recipe Weekend we’ll be posting a recipe — and mixing up a batch! of natural homemade bug repellent that will hopefully make this first bite my last.

But I know that this first bite heralds the start to an entire post-Winter season – of camping trips, picnics, pool parties, trips to the park, summer vacations — and general outdoor merriment that comes with the lurking dangers of everything from yellow-jacket-riddled trashcans to noseeums and sand fleas.

So as we welcome the return of long sun-lit days, and these unwelcome accompanying hazards, I want to refresh everyone’s memory on the best easy remedies to stop the gnawing itch of bug bites and the pain of stings. If forewarned is really forearmed (as my mother likes to say), impending Spring and Summer fun just got a little bit safer.

For MOSQUITO and other BUG BITES, have you tried:

  • A drop of tea tree oil dabbed gently on the site of a bite or applied to a band-aid which then covers the bite area can provide both soothing relief, and ward off infection. Add a drop of lavender essential oil for increased pain and itch relief.
  • A cotton ball soaked in witch hazel can provide immediate pain relief, and stop the swelling of a bug bite.
  • Ice cubes!!! Ice cubes are a great, easily-accessible and free line of defense against itch and swelling.
  • Calendula — Both antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory, calendula oil or cream is one of the most effective remedies in the bug bite repertoire. Just rub it on the site. And p.s. it’s also great for cuts, wounds and rashes.
  • Aloe vera gel — its not just for burns, it’s a great itch, irritation and wound healer.

For Ant Bites:

  1. Start by washing with soap and water.
  2. Apply apple cider vinegar directly to the bites.
  3. Finish with healing salve, baking soda mixed with a dab of water or green clay

For BEES, WASPS and other nasty STINGS:

  1. Scrape out the stinger with a fingernail or credit card (avoid pulling it out with tweezers, which can release more venom into the site of the sting).
  2. Wash the area with soap and water
  3. Apply an antiseptic, such as witch hazel or apple cider vinegar.
  4. Mix baking soda with water until it forms a paste and apply to the area. The baking soda will tenderize the skin, relieve pain, and stop inflammation. You can also try meat tenderizer mixed with water. The bee sting venom is made up of proteins, which the meat tenderizer breaks down.

Other Options:

  • lavender-blossomFor stings, place a slice of papaya over the site for up to an hour. The papain enzyme in papaya is excellent at breaking down the venomous proteins causing inflammation and pain.
  • One drop of lavender essential oil at the site of the bee sting can have a potent pain relieving and anti-inflammatory effect. For wasp stings, try 1-3 drops of lavender essential oil, and 1-3 drops of tea tree oil for extra anti-inflammatory effects and pain relief.
  • Basil: basil has been shown to be an insect repellent, a pain reliever and anti-inflammatory for bee stings, and a great reliever of spider bites. For spider bites, 2-3 drops of basil oil on a band-aid works best. For bee stings, you can crush fresh basil and place it directly on the site of the sting after cleaning. Then plan on eating Italian food for dinner. (I dare you not to crave pesto after using this remedy.)
  • Keep plantain leaves on hand. If a bee strikes, after removing the stinger, chew up the leaf, or bruise it with your hand and then apply it directly to the site of the sting. It helps draw out the venom and ease the pain.

For Bites All Over:

  • Is your child covered in bites, or stand in an anthill? (I did, once, and the fire ants were merciless…) Put them in a bath of apple cider vinegar or baking soda — about 1/2 C for each 6 inches of water.
  • Support your child internally by giving him Vitamin C, digestive enzymes with protease, and plantain or echinacea tincture to stop the swelling.

Fact or Fiction: A few years ago, I was stung by a Texas scorpion. Coming from California, where apparently the scorpions are of a more dangerous variety, I called a medical hotline immediately. The nurse on call, after ascertaining that I was not suffering any severe allergic reaction, suggested that I place a penny on the site of the sting. While in my case I can’t be sure that it was the penny, the ice packs, or just time that cured my pain, I have since heard stories both refuting and supporting the “penny cure.” Just remember to clean the penny first.

When to seek medical help with a bug bite or sting:  

The area of the sting or bite swells up, such as the entire wrist arm or leg where it occurred; there is any difficulty breathing, dizziness, nausea, or other signs of severe allergy; the pain and inflammation does not subside, even after hours of treatment. Bee stings can cause especially severe reactions. When in doubt, have it checked out.

BREAKFAST CHALLENGE SUCCESS: French Toast with Fruit

I forget how quick French toast really is to make. It combines the protein of the eggs with the complex carbohydrates of the bread, which satisfies the protein – complex carbohydrate balance that feeds little one’s brain. Equally important, he loves it!

This recipe is easily modifiable for food sensitivities and preferences, and feels like a treat to my son. With nearly 12 grams of protein per slice, this is a breakfast that seems like a decadent treat, and still gives us the protein/complex carbohydrate balance we’re looking for. This recipe is my variation on a wonderful Good Housekeeping recipe (thanks, Delish.com for posting!) that we’ve amended to accomodate my son’s favorite ingredient (cinammon, cinammon, cinammon!), and his food sensitivities.

2 large egg whites
1 large egg
8 slices firm bread (whole wheat, or brown rice bread work well)
3/4 C milk (rice and almond milk also work)
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
dash of cinnamon

Whisk together all wet ingredients with the salt and cinammon. Dip bread in the mixture, being sure to coat both sides. place bread on a greased skillet (vegetable oil spray works well here). Cook approximately 3 minutes each side – until lightly browned, then flip.

Top it with a dusting of cinammon if you desire, then serve with a side of seasonal fruit. Raspberries, bananas, blueberries all work well here — even right on top! A delicate drizzle of real maple syrup also makes it a touch more decadent.

** For an even easier start to your morning, try Baked French Toast by placing the bread in a casserole dish and pouring the egg mixture on top. Then refrigerate overnight, and bake in the morning in a preheated, 425degree oven for 30 minutes (or until the toast is lightly browned). Thanks to MomsWhoThink.com for this great idea!

Kids Health: Natural Home Remedies for Bedwetting

ohdeedoh_buckwheatpillowBedwetting rarely represents a problem requiring medical intervention; it is, however, one of the major reasons that parents will explore natural remedies and complementary medicines for their children. After ruling out any medical causes with a primary care provider, there seems little left to offer the children who wet their beds – which is unfortunate, since self-esteem and sleep can suffer.

Bedwetting is more common in boys than in girls. An estimated 6-7 million children wet their beds during the night. It is generally not even considered to be a medical condition until the age of five, as children’s development of neuromuscular control and bladder size varies. A typical question your care provider may ask is, ‘has your child ever had a dry night?’ If the answer is no, your child is considered to have primary enuresis (a fancy word for bedwetting). If the answer is yes, and your child has been dry at night for at least one six month stretch, your child is considered to have secondary enuresis. Either way, the following remedies can be useful for strengthening your child’s bladder and eliminating possible causative factors.

If your child’s bedwetting came on quickly, a bladder infection or other illness may be the culprit. When my son wets his bed, it is often a symptom of the onset of a viral or bacterial infection. The illness may or may not be a bladder infection specifically, although it may be – signs of a bladder infection include cloudy pink urine, or a burning sensation while urinating. If your child’s bedwetting seems to come on spontaneously, and/or your child seems to be sleeping either more deeply or fitfully than usual, it may be the hallmark of an unwanted pathogenic invader. In these cases, treatment options, whether western or complementary, will be aimed at bolstering the immune system and creating a hostile environment for the bacteria or virus. Bladder infections are a good time to check in with your child’s primary care giver. There are also many great home remedies to complement your child’s care during an infection – please refer to our article on UTIs/bladder infections at mommyser.com.

If your child wets his or her bed habitually, the first thing to notice is whether your child runs hot or cold in temperature, and whether s/he seems emotional, irritable or nervous during the day. Also note if your child sleeps deeply, is difficult to awaken, is having fitful dream cycles. Does your child have dark circles under his/her eyes? Is there a family history (especially on father’s side) of bedwetting as a child?

Eastern medicine asks many of these questions as a means of ascertaining the underlying causative factor of the bedwetting, making for more effective treatment. If your child tends to get cold easily or feel cold to touch, seems pale, fatigued, low in appetite and/or sleeps deeply, this usually signifies what is referred to as a ‘kidney’ imbalance (a diagnosis that does not suggest anything wrong with the kidney organ, but refers more to a functional imbalance). Make sure that your child is well-dressed and well-covered during the night – children with this constitution may wet their beds more frequently when they get cold during sleep. Children who tend toward these symptoms can also find relief in consistent acupressure to strengthen the kidney system, and warming therapies directed at the lower abdomen.

– An excellent acupressure point to strengthen the kidneys is found at the ankle, on the inside of both legs, between the medial malleolus (the ankle bone which sticks out and the back of the ankle at the Achilles tendon. You’ll generally find a depression here. Apply gentle but firm pressure with your thumb here (this may feel tender, but should not feel uncomfortable to your child when you press – if it does, apply less pressure). Massage on each side for 1-3 minutes before bed.

– Before bed, apply a hot water bottle or warmed buckwheat pillow to the mid-sacral area (on the lower back toward the base of the spine) and to the lower abdominal area below your child’s navel. Leave on for 3-5 minutes each side or until the area is feeling pleasantly warm but not uncomfortably hot. You can read to talk to your child while they relax.

– If your child sleeps so deeply that they cannot seem to wake themselves in response to bladder cues, try massaging the very top-back crown of the head, (right where many children have cow-licks, about two child-size hand-breadths back from the forehead), before bed each night, for 1-2 minutes.

Food allergies may also be a culprit in repeated bedwetting. If your child wets his/her bed, and also has conditions such as asthma, frequent hives or rashes, eczema, digestive difficulties, food allergies may be an especially good place to start. If your child gets hot and sweaty at night, or tends toward hyperactivity, these could be signs that your child’s nervous system is being taxed or overstimulated by a food allergy. If your child tends to have dark circles under their eyes, this is another clue… either your child is not sleeping well, or these may be ‘allergy shiners’. Substances in allergenic foods may be irritating the bladder walls, causing it to be difficult to hold in urine. Foods most commonly implicated are milk and dairy products, and citrus foods. Caffeinated foods – chocolate and soda, are stimulants which can be frequently irritating to a sensitive bladder. Make a food chart, pay attention to what your child eats each day, and make a note of whether or not your child wet his/her bed that night. A correlation may emerge.

If there seems to be no easy connection between a particular food and bedwetting, a food allergy may still be a possibility – it may be a food that your child eats regularly (and many foods can take up to 10 days to completely clear out of your system). Consider eliminating dairy products (or wheat or citrus, for example) for a week to 10 days, then resume eating them. See what happens. Just make sure you choose one food group at a time. While this may seem difficult at first, many of the families I have worked with have found this well worth the time and energy. Sometimes a simple food elimination will also eliminate the bedwetting. Even though it can be frightening to consider finding out ‘bad news’ (my son loves dairy, for example, but his body doesn’t), it’s good information to have. Many children grow out of both bedwetting and food allergies. There may also be ways to help support your child’s digestion – herbs, digestive enzymes, if you decide to keep certain allergenic foods as a part of their diet. A safe and easy way to soothe possible bladder irritation is to give your child 6 to 8 ounces of unsweetened cranberry juice at least one hour before bed. (feel free to sweeten it yourself a little with agave nectar, or honey if your child is over 15 months old.)

Your child may seem nervous, anxious or irritable during the day, or, as their parent, you may know that they are going through a difficult or transitional time – at home or at school. If your child’s emotional environment is feeling unsteady, this may often take its toll at night in the form of bedwetting. If your child’s bedwetting begins unexpectedly, after having been ‘night-trained’, it is always good practice to check in with teachers and caregivers to see if something new is coming up for your child during the day. I sometimes have to remember that things that may seem like ‘no big deal’ from my perspective can seem like a very big deal to my son – someone not playing nice, friends not wanting to play his games – different kids respond differently and what may not phase one child may deeply affect another. Bedwetting may also be a cause of anxiety that builds on itself. Wetting the bed can be very stressful, especially to a child who has a sense s/he ‘should’ be getting to the toilet. It is for this reason that in almost every case of chronic bedwetting, I suggest calming remedies for your child’s nervous system. A tea of chamomile, catnip, lemon balm or any combination of the three can calm and relax your child before bed. Haw flakes, available like candy at many asian grocery stores, is a wonderful digestive aid that is also good for nervousness and anxiety. I also recommend rescue remedy in ointment form, rubbed at the temples and on the inside of the wrists. Supplemental calcium and magnesium, formulated for children and taken in divided doses – one dose in the morning, one at night can help as well, especially if bedwetting seems related to nervousness. (as with all supplements, check with your health provider and reputable health food store or pharmacy for suggestions on which brand and form can be most easily absorbed by your child.)

There are many herbal remedies, homeopathics, massage and chiropractic techniques that parents report have worked wonders with their children. For most of these practices, I suggest consulting with a professional who specializes in holistic pediatrics: many herbal and homeopathic remedies in particular should be individually prescribed based on your child’s particular constitution for best results.

The most important thing to remember about bedwetting is that it is never ever the child’s fault. Your child undoubtedly does not like this situation any more than the parent (and I promise, I don’t love waking up in the middle of the night to do laundry). Be as calm, patient and reassuring as you can be. Nearly every case of bedwetting will be completely outgrown by the teenage years. It will not last forever. In the meantime, bedwetting presents a challenging, but sometimes wonderful opportunity to teach children and parents how to nurture and nourish their bodies, and make a space in the evening for healing time, teas and touch.

For more information on bedwetting, herbal remedies, and demonstrations of the techniques presented here and more, check out Mommy’s ER volume 2 section on bedwetting.