Hurry! Do Something!
Unlike chronic illnesses, accidents and injuries are sudden, often unexpected, and require immediate action. First aid is just what its name implies: the immediate assistance given to an injured or sick person. Perhaps the most important part of first aid is being prepared — having the tools and skills you need to assess the situation, determine the best course of action (treat the problem yourself or call for help), and then follow it.
Conventional medicine recommends that you keep some basics on hand, including these:
Antiseptic solution, like hydrogen peroxide, providone-iodine (Betadine), or benzalkonium chloride (Bactine), to clean wounds and kill germs
Antibiotic ointment, such as bacitracin/neomycin/polymyxin B (Neosporin), to prevent infection in cuts and other superficial skin injuries
Antidiarrheal medication, such as loperamide (Imodium) or bismuth subsalicylate (Kaopectate, Pepto-Bismol)
Over-the-counter (OTC) oral antihistamine like loratadine (Claritin) and diphenhydramine (Benadryl), to stop itching OTC oral pain reliever (analgesic), such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) like aspirin and ibuprofen (Advil)
OTC topical anesthetic, like lidocaine (Topicaine) or benzocaine (Solarcaine, Americaine), to stop pain and/or itching
OTC topical anti-inflammatory/anti-itch remedy, such as hydrocortisone (Cortaid) or diphenhydramine (Benadryl), to stop itching
Insect repellant made with N-diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET) or permethrin, found in Off! and Repel brands, to keep biting insects away
You'll most likely buy the same types of products whether you use conventional or herbal items to stock your first-aid kit. But choosing herb-based instead of chemical-laden supplies can be very helpful — both for you and the person you're assisting.
Topical antibiotics can cause skin reactions and (more alarming) contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Topical antiseptics can inhibit wound healing if used long term (large doses of providone-iodine can interfere with thyroid functioning). Benzalkonium chloride can irritate skin, lungs, and mucous membranes.
Conventional antidiarrheal meds can cause constipation and cramping and may interact with other drugs.
Oral antihistamines can cause weakness, irregular heartbeat, headaches, and nervousness.
Acetaminophen can cause liver damage (especially if you regularly drink alcohol or coffee); aspirin and other NSAIDS can cause gastrointestinal bleeding, stomach and intestinal damage, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and heart problems.
Topical pain relievers can cause swelling, skin irritation, and irregular heartbeat.
Topical itch remedies can cause a variety of side effects: Corticoste-roids can cause skin reactions and can also impair wound healing and increase your chances of infection; antihistamines can cause redness, swelling, and other skin problems.
Chemical insect repellants are neurotoxins and have been linked to skin and neurological reactions. Combining DEET with a chemical sunscreen can increase the amount of DEET that's absorbed into your skin, which can be toxic.
Bismuth subsalicylate is the key ingredient in Pepto-Bismol, one of the bestselling OTC drugs in the United States. It's an effective remedy for nausea, diarrhea, and heartburn, but it can interact dangerously with many other drugs, including prescription blood thinners, pain relievers, and diabetes drugs as well as nonprescription pain and cold medicines.