Summertime First Aid


by By Lisa Weiner /

Posted on October 22, 2009 at 4:28 PM

Updated Thursday, Nov 12 at 1:52 PM

About the Author

Portland freelance writer Lisa Weiner is a nurse practitioner and proud mother of a two-year-old boy. She has a passion for demystifying the world of health for her patients and readers. Her work has appeared in Clinician Reviews, The Jewish Review, Northwest Palate and the Oregonian.

Ah, summertime &hellip beach days, picnics and cookouts. Sometimes, however, summer fun takes a detour into discomforts such as sunburns, bee stings and poison ivy.

Usually, these common summertime ailments can be taken care of quickly and easily at home. Read on to find out how to remedy them yourself, and learn when you should consult a doctor.


What to Do:

  • Apply aloe vera gel or lotion liberally and frequently to the burned area.
  • Take a cold shower or bath. Adding a half-cup of oatmeal, cornstarch or baking soda to the bath can help relieve the pain.
  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen, as needed.
  • Stay out of the sun until the burn has healed.
  • If there is any blistering, do not open the blisters.

When to Call:

  • You feel weak, sick, or confused
  • Your discomfort is significant
  • There is swelling in burned areas
  • You have (any) difficulty breathing
  • Blisters larger than a 1/2-inch are present

Insect and Bee Stings

What to Do:

  • Remove the stinger as soon as possible. Do not pull or squeeze the stinger out--this can release more venom into the body. Instead, scrape it out with a credit card or fingernail, using a sideways motion until it releases.
  • Move away from the area. Bees release a substance when they are in danger to attract other bees.
  • Wash the site with soap and water.
  • Apply ice to reduce swelling.
  • Apply a paste made of baking soda and water to reduce itching and swelling.
  • Do not scratch the stung area.
  • Take ibuprofen for pain and/or Benadryl for itching and swelling.

When to Call:

Call 911 immediately if the person stung has a history of  , or if there are any of the following signs: 

  • Swelling of the face or neck
  • Wheezing
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Hives

Learn more about dealing with  .

Poison Ivy

What to Do:

The FDA recommends the following plan, which should ideally be executed within 10 minutes of exposure:

  • Cleanse exposed areas with rubbing alcohol.
  • Wash exposed areas with water only.
  • Take a shower with soap and warm water.
  • Put on gloves and wipe down everything you had with you when exposed (shoes, water bottle, etc.).
  • Apply cold compresses or rub an ice cube over the affected area(s).
  • Apply Calamine or cold oatmeal lotion to reduce itching.
  • Take Benadryl to help relieve itching at night and help promote sleep.  

When to Call:

  • If the reaction is severe, widespread or affecting sensitive areas such as eyes, mouth or genitals.
  • If blisters are oozing pus.
  • If the rash is not getting better after a few weeks.
  • If the rash is accompanied by a fever of 100 degrees or more.

Hopefully, your summer will be filled with many more cookouts than sunburns, more amusement park rides than bee stings and more roasted marshmallows than poison ivy encounters. But if one of these summertime hazards should come your way, you'll be prepared!