Summertime offers wonderful opportunities for exercise and adventure. Getting outside with family and friends for a picnic or cookout is a wonderful tradition. Hiking, biking, swimming and playing tennis or golf are great warm-weather activities.

Being active, however, increases the possibility for mishaps. Vigorous physical exercise can lead to painful muscle cramps. Picnics attract yellow jackets, so stings are a hazard. Swimming in the ocean may lead to a close encounter with a jellyfish.

In such situations, access to a health professional may be delayed and a first aid kit might not be handy. What can you do to alleviate the common problems that can interfere with summer fun?

* Bee stings: A sliced onion applied cut side to the sting can ease the pain and swelling promptly. Backup options include a paste of baking soda or meat tenderizer mixed with water.

* Mosquito bites: Itching from bites or poison ivy can be controlled for hours with hot water. It should be hot enough to be uncomfortable, but not hot enough to burn. A few seconds of exposure to hot water does the job.

* Jellyfish stings: Lifeguards often treat man-o-war jellyfish stings with white vinegar. Then they scrape the stings with the edge of a credit card to get the barbs out. An alternative treatment is putting meat tenderizer mixed with a little water on the sting before scraping the barbs out.

* Leg cramps: Vigorous exercise may lead to muscle cramping, especially in hot weather. Swallowing a teaspoon of ordinary yellow mustard is our go-to remedy. Backup includes a few sips of pickle juice.

* Burns: Cooking on the grill or toasting marshmallows can easily lead to minor burns. Cold water is the best first aid; then try smearing yellow mustard on the burn to ease the pain. Alternately, soak the burned area in soy sauce.

* Cuts and scrapes: To stop bleeding from small cuts or abrasions, wash the skin and then apply finely ground black pepper.

* Lice: Summer camp offers opportunities for children to pick up lice. For a fast kill, soak the hair in old-fashioned amber Listerine. Leave it on for at least 15 minutes. Another remedy is to apply Cetaphil cleanser to damp hair and blow it dry. Leave it on overnight and wash it out in the morning. Either remedy will need to be repeated, as neither kills nits.

* Fungus: Sandals and bare feet reveal nasty-looking nails. Although it takes time, soaking feet in a solution of half and half Listerine and white vinegar can be helpful. Skin fungus (jock itch, under breasts, between toes) can also be troublesome in hot humid weather. Solutions include careful applications of Listerine, milk of magnesia, vodka or vinegar.

* Swimmer’s ear: Prevention is best. Make a solution of equal parts white vinegar and rubbing alcohol. Put a teaspoon into each ear both before and after swimming. Blot the excess out with a tissue to dry the ears after swimming.

There are many more conditions that can be managed successfully with home remedies. If you would like to learn about more, check out The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies, available at your local library or online.

Common sense is crucial in using home remedies. Serious problems such as an allergic reaction or bad burn require emergency medical attention.

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  1. PB

    I have tried meat tenderizer to no avail for stings. Same for baking soda. What I have used I learned from my husband, soak a little cotton ball in vinegar and fasten over the area. If the spot is still bothering after the cotton ball dries out, repeat it. He learned this when quite young; he would be 94 now if he were still alive. I’ve never heard the onion idea. Vinegar is fast, handy, and no tears.

  2. jlw

    One problem you don’t mention is an ankle rash that comes from hiking in warm weather (in socks and boots). It is ugly and itchy and can takes days and days to dissapear. Any idea about how to prevent or treat (other than avoid hikes?).

  3. K. Allen

    I just read your advice about yellow mustard and burns. My son works in a kitchen. The other day as he was cleaning the grill, some of the cleaning solution splashed on his hand. He said it hurt terribly. A co-worker suggested he apply mustard. He did so and was amazed at how the pain went away. I will let him know about the soy sauce.

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