Texas Living

Home Remedies for Outdoor Dangers

By Annie Wiles 4.8.22

Intrepid explorers rejoice — the sun’s out, spring has sprung, and there’s a whole world of wilderness to get muddied, bruised, and battered in. As we go off adventuring and kids look forward to spring breaks and, soon after that, summer camp, it’s worth knowing a few home remedies for common spring wildlife woes.

These remedies have often been passed down through generations and don’t all carry a medical professional’s seal of approval, so always take care to consult experts and use your best judgement. But when you’re soothing sun-sick kiddos or healing your own small bites, scratches, stings, and scrapes, it’s always helpful to have a few tricks up your sleeve (or in the back of the cabinet).


7 household tricks for calming the burn:

  • Replenishing aloe: Keep an aloe vera plant growing in your window — any time you’re feeling the burn, you can simply break off a chunk (it will grow back!) and apply the gel inside directly to your skin for instant relief.
  • Chamomile compress: Just like chamomile tea can help you fall asleep, it can calm your inflamed skin too. (Skip this trick if you are allergic to pollen.) Brew a cup and let it cool instead of drinking it; soak a washcloth in it and apply to your burn. You can also soak the teabags in cool water and apply to your eyelids.
  • Baking soda bath: Soak in a cool bath with a cup of baking soda. For extra soothing, add a cup of oats.
  • Coconut oil: Skip moisturizers with fragrances and chemicals that could irritate your burn and apply coconut oil instead after a cold compress.
  • Cornstarch salve: Make a paste of cornstarch and water to apply to heavily burned skin.
  • Cucumber coolers: You may know the spa trick of putting cucumber slices on your eyelids; this works anywhere you’re burned. You can also make yourself a cucumber mask by blending the cucumber like a smoothie.
  • Yogurt mask: Instead of eating the plain yogurt in your fridge, apply it as a mask over your burn to cool it down.


7 quick replenishing foods and drinks to lower your body temperature:

  • Buttermilk: You may have heard this one from your grandmother, or you might not have believed people could actually do this — but drinking a glass of cold, probiotic-packed buttermilk stimulates your digestion and cools your body. (Add sugar and mango pulp to approximate a delicious Indian lassi drink.)
  • Citrus: High-vitamin C foods such as oranges, lemons, and grapefruits boost your digestion and your water absorption, helping your body stay cool.
  • Hot tea: Drinking something hot and hydrating cools your body down by triggering its temperature regulation. It might sound counterintuitive, but it works.
  • Coconut water: Drinking coconut water can quickly replenish your body’s electrolytes, vitamins, and minerals, soothing you from the inside out.
  • Peppermint leaves: Add peppermint leaves to tea or water; the menthol in the leaves has a chilling effect, helping you cool down quickly.
  • Melons and cucumbers: Hydrating is the most important thing you can do to prevent and recover from overheating. Drink plenty of fluids, and if you have trouble remembering to drink water, make sure you eat plenty of high- water-content foods such as melons and cucumbers.
  • Spicy foods: Just like drinking hot tea, eating spicy food cools down your body by forcing it to regulate temperature and sweat it out — so throw extra sriracha or hot sauce on your tacos. It’s for your health.

A failsafe for if you don’t have ingredients around: Apply a cool, damp cloth to your forehead and pressure points (your neck, wrists, chest, face, and temples), where veins are closest to the surface and cool fastest.

Poison Plants

7 simple methods to relieve the sting of Texas’ poisonous plants, including poison oak, ivy, sumac, hemlock, and bull nettle:

  • Baking soda salve: Mix 3 parts baking soda with 1 part water to form a paste and apply it to your rash. This is particularly helpful for the sting of bull nettle.
  • Cold compress: Apply damp towels to your skin; they should cool your skin but not wet it.
  • Honey healing: Honey is both antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory, meaning it may be able to both soothe your rash and help it heal more quickly.
  • Oatmeal bath: Like with a sunburn, this can soothe the effects of plant rashes.
  • Rubbing alcohol: Keep rubbing alcohol on hand, especially in areas you know have poisonous plants; apply immediately to any exposed skin or other materials (including clothes, shoes, tools) and to pets that come into contact with a poison plant.
  • Witch hazel: Witch hazel is an astringent and anti-inflammatory that can be found at most pharmacies and may help to temporarily offer relief.
  • Antihistamines and anti-itch products: Some mishaps require a trip to the pharmacy, where you can find calamine or mentholated lotions and over-the-counter allergy medicines and hydrocortisone topicals. (Always consult with your doctor on recommended doses for yourself and for children.)

Wash well! Keeping your rash clean is key to preventing infection. Also wash any clothes that come into contact with the offending plant to prevent further spread.

Be aware of poison plants around your home:

  • Keep out of reach of animals: Know what you’re planting; some plants are not poisonous to the touch but are poisonous to consume, putting animals at risk. These include pokeweed, wisteria, and (more relevant in the winter) mistletoe and poinsettia.
  • Homegrown danger: Make sure to wash your plants; if you’re growing produce with fertilizer or pesticides in your soil, they could contain poison.

Keep these poison hotlines for people and pets on hand:

  • Texas Poison Center Network: These six regional poison centers provide 24-hour access to free, immediate medical advice. Physicians, pharmacists, nurses, and educators trained in toxicology answer all calls. The centers help provide information on poisonous substances including reactions to food, plants, bites and stings, and more. They can also refer you to the nearest hospital if needed. Call toll-free: 1.800.222.1222.
  • ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center: This 24/7 hotline is your best and immediate resource if you think your pet may have ingested a poisonous substance. Experts can help you recognize and protect pets from substances including plants, human foods and medications, and more. Call: 888.426.4435.

Stings & Bites

7 remedies to relieve bee stings and bug bites from mosquitos and fire ants:

  • Apple cider vinegar: Apply to bites to reduce swelling.
  • Hot compress: Relieve mosquito bite stinging and itching with a hot, damp cloth or hot water bottle.
  • Ice: Cooling the affected area can slow inflammation; apply ice until itching or stinging numbs.
  • Toothpaste: This may have been the first remedy you learned when you got your first bee sting. You may not have known why it worked, and the truth is, no one does. It’s possible that it counteracts the acidic honeybee venom. Either way, it’s worth a try.
  • Lavender or peppermint oil: Add a drop of these natural anti- inflammatories to a carrier oil such as almond oil to ease stinging and swelling.
  • Onion or garlic: Rub fresh onion or garlic immediately onto your bite to prevent swelling.
  • Basil, thyme, or lemon balm: Boil leaves in water to steep, then let cool and apply with a washcloth; or chop up leaves and rub directly onto your skin.

These home remedies are recommended for relieving light itching, stinging, or swelling. Some bites and stings can carry far more serious effects, in which case it is important to treat them far more seriously.

  • Mosquito-carried disease: While it’s most likely that a mosquito bite will just be a mosquito bite, it’s important to take preventive measures, as mosquitos in Texas do still carry several serious diseases. These include chikungunya, dengue fever, West Nile, and Zika.
  • Snake bites: Snake bites should always be treated seriously. There are four venomous snakes in Texas: copperheads, coral snakes, cottonmouths (or water moccasins), and rattlesnakes. Learn to recognize venomous species and avoid them accordingly. This is not a case of “keep your friends close but your enemies closer.”

Seek Medical Attention

These home remedies are recommended for mild, treatable symptoms you are confident you can take care of yourself. If you are ever unsure what you have come into contact with or experience a severe rash or allergic reaction, always seek the advice of a medical professional or go to a hospital emergency room.

Signs you should talk to your doctor:

  • You have a fever above 100 F.
  • You have difficulty either breathing or swallowing.
  • Your rash is on your face, near your eyes or mouth, or covering a large area of your body.
  • Your blisters are oozing.

Also seek medical attention if you have any known allergies or are having an allergic reaction. This could present as:

  • Fever, hives, or severe itching.
  • Difficulty breathing or swelling of tongue and throat.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Rapid pulse, paleness, dizziness, or loss of consciousness.

Prevention Is Key

The best treatment for running afoul of sun and heat or flora and fauna is to avoid getting injured in the first place!

  • Apply SPF when you go outside and bring it with you to reapply.
  • Stay hydrated and bring water and snacks to replenish electrolytes.
  • Wear long sleeves and proper footwear to avoid exposure to poisonous plants, as well as stings and bites from insects and other creepy-crawlies.

Learn how to handle serious heat emergencies here.

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