Accidents can happen quickly, and if you’re on the playground, in the wilderness, or home alone, you may not have access to proper first aid. And while there’s no true substitute for expert medical care in serious situations, these healing shortcuts can be temporary — and sometimes lifesaving — solutions.
1. Prevent Blisters With Duct Tape
Whether it’s a pair of stilettos or sturdy hiking boots, new shoes are bound to give you blisters. Head them off at the pass by taping a strip of duct tape to your ‘hot spots,’ recommends Juanita Allen Kingsley, Wilderness EMT. The tape will provide a sturdy barrier of protection against chafing.
2. Remove Splinters With Glue
If the idea of poking yourself with a pair of tweezers sounds painful, try a gentler method for removing a splinter. “Squeeze a drop of Elmer’s glue on and around the area and let it dry for about 30 minutes,” says Kingsley. “Once it’s dry, gently peel it off as you would a strip of wax. The glue will stick to the splinter but not your skin.”
Joe Alton, M.D., a disaster and epidemic preparedness expert and author of "The Survival Medicine Handbook," offers another technique: Fill a wide-brim bottle or jar with very hot water and press the splintered area against the mouth of jar. The moisture loosens it and the bottle creates suction.
3. Treat Bee Stings With an Onion
Some compounds in onions are antibacterial and can reduce inflammation. After removing the stinger (scrape it off with a credit card or fingernail), place an onion on the area to speed healing, advises Alton.
4. Use Sanitary Napkins as Bandages
Pads pull double duty as feminine protection and a compress or bandage, says Kingsley. “They’re perfect for absorbing blood and a good way to economize the number of items in your bag.” Plus, they're a more sterile option than reaching for the nearest towel if you don't have gauze on hand.
5. Calm Sunburns With Vinegar
Soak a T-shirt in one part vinegar (any type will work) and one part cool water. “Vinegar is thought to balance the pH in the body, and the acetic acid in it (used in the synthesis of aspirin) helps relive pain and itching in mild sunburns,” says Alton.
You can also freeze aloe vera in ice cube trays and rub them on your skin.
6. Sprinkle Cayenne Pepper on a Cut
“This does burn,” says Alton, “but it will stop the bleeding.” That's a fair tradeoff for areas that tend to bleed a lot, like cuts on the fingers. Cayenne pepper contains a compound called capsaicin (which gives the pepper its kick) that acts as a pain reliever when applied to the surface of the skin, he adds.
7. Pour Sugar on a Burnt Tongue
Scald your mouth on too-hot coffee? Pour a small spoonful of sugar on your tongue and let it melt in your mouth. The glucose in sugar helps relieve the pain — and it’s probably the only time you’ll be encouraged to eat straight sugar.
8. Soothe a Sore Throat With Marshmallows
A main ingredient in the sweet, sponge-like candy is gelatin, which coats the throat, helping relieve that scratchy feeling.
9. Make Homemade Cold and Hot Packs
If you have a sprain and you need a cooling pack (best for early treatment) freeze a bag of one-part rubbing alcohol and three-parts water. “It won’t freeze completely but it will do the job,” says Alton.
For heat packs (useful for the first 24 to 48 hours to reduce stiffness), pour rice in a sock and microwave it for about 20 seconds or so. The rice holds the heat and the sock will conform to any area on the body.
10. Glue a Cut
Here’s a trick used in emergency rooms in countries that can’t afford expensive medical glues: Apply Super Glue to lacerations that separate the edges of the skin and cause minor bleeding (paper cuts, shaving nicks). “Apply a dab of Super Glue and let it dry,” says Alton. “The glue will fall off on its own."
Bonus Tip: Stop a Nosebleed With…Raw Bacon
OK, we don't actually expect anyone to do this — but it's pretty cool. “This shouldn’t be your go-to method but there is evidence that pressing raw bacon on the inside of your nostril can stop bleeding,” says Kingsley. “There are clotting factors in pork and the salt is a desiccant so it dries out the area.” In fact, doctors in Michigan won a Nobel Prize in 2014 for the idea.
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