First aid on the homestead- are you prepared? If there’s anything I’ve learned from homesteading, it’s that nothing ever goes exactly how you want it to. And it comes with inherent danger- being out in the elements, long days, using dangerous equipment, and working with farm animals. Like the time we brought home our first ducks, put them in a pen we cobbled together, from which they promptly escaped… and then we spent the next two hours trying to catch them, which included Karl diving head-first into the cedar bushes and poison ivy.
While some things you just can’t anticipate (the tenacity of a duck?), I like to plan and feel prepared for whatever I possibly can… so having an arsenal of homestead first aid and health aid products at the ready gives me a lot of peace of mind.
There are two parts to the things I’m sharing: products to help with minor and common injury on the homestead, and products we use for illness… and a few other random things I thought were worth mentioning while we’re talking about health and preparedness.
How to Prepare a Homestead First Aid Kit
Everyone’s homestead first aid and health aid boxes will and should look a little different depending on your situation. For example: we don’t have children, we’re only a few miles from a hospital, there is reliable phone coverage, and Karl and I aren’t accident prone people. We live in the north, where we have a lot of bugs, cold weather, and a distinct lack of creepy crawly things that can kills us. You won’t find a snake bite kit at my house. But maybe you need one.
As hard as it is to do, think about the things that can go wrong on your homestead, and prepare the best you can.
The ideas and first aid products I’m sharing today are my top essentials, and things I think almost everyone will benefit from keeping around- for minor and every day kinda stuff.
My approach to first aid on the homestead is this: use something natural (and even homemade) whenever possible, but also utilize more modern medicine if it prevents further damage or a trip to the doctor, keeping in mind products with the least side effects and greatest reward over risk. We may be a whole-fed homestead, even a “natural” homestead, but we’re also a practical and rational homestead.
I also consider myself a minimalist. We aren’t the type to rush to the doctor for every little thing, which probably has to do with the fact that I am one (I am a Chiropractor when I’m not homesteading!) so I have a significant background in all things health-related. But what I mean is that I try to listen to my body, and give it the tools to let it take care of things the way that it knows how. I don’t rush to ice or heat an injury, or spray antiseptic all over myself, or take medicine to stop coughing or stop having diarrhea. Your body does things for a reason- so I try to support it, not take over (in most cases anyways).
It can’t help if you don’t have it or can’t find it…
I can’t stress enough the premise that these are things WE KEEP ON HAND ALL THE TIME, so they are right here when we need them. No one has to run into town or run to the store- because if we ever need these first aid things, we often need them RIGHT NOW.
While you don’t have to keep all of this stuff together in one place (though a dedicated first aid box would be nice) if you’re going to the trouble to keep it on hand, then at least know where it is. And put it somewhere easy to access, so that someone who wasn’t familiar with your house could find it with a few simple directions.
Homestead First Aid & Health Kit Essentials
—– GENERAL HEALTH & PREPAREDNESS : HOMESTEAD FIRST AID —–
Fine Point Tweezers | These are so much better than the ones you find in the cosmetics aisle at the store! These excel at removing things from skin. Yes, wood slivers, but especially fine slivers and prickly tiny hairs or thorns from plants. Also ticks and other stuck-on critters as well as their little stingers or stinger fragments.
Rubber Gloves | Can’t live without ’em! We always keep a big box on hand. There are a lot of things that come up on the homestead that require rubber gloves… and as I am thinking about the different situations we’ve used them in recently, I’m realizing that maybe our life is a little odd indeed.
From butchering poultry with a cut on your hand, to performing minor surgery on a chicken’s foot, to cleaning up poo, sewer problems, de-seeding jalapeños, or shimmying underneath the chicken coop to remove a nest of very old eggs, ticking time bombs if you will. Many of you know just what I mean. Gloves, they’re game changers.
Anti-Fog Eye Goggles | Not safety goggles, but actual goggles that protect and secure all the way around your eyes, for working with chemicals or anything with fine dust. I use these when I’m making soap! This type is great because it protects but also has little vents in the side so you don’t fog them up, which is genius, because that almost always happens to me.
Raw Honey | Perhaps my favorite first aid kit essential! You could write an entire book on the health-related uses of honey (and people have!), so I’ll touch on just a couple of the best. For sore throats… stirred into warm tea or whiskey with lemon. On skin irritations, like sun burn or chapped skin. And especially on lips! I add raw honey to all my homemade lip balm and it makes all the difference in the world, especially in winter. See here for how to find real-deal, good quality raw honey.
Alcohol Wipes | I’m a bit of a germ-o-phobe. I use these in the winter to wipe down my phone anytime I return from a trip to the store. I keep them in my purse at all times as well. We’ll take them hiking and foraging… anywhere we might be touching food and might need to clean our hands. They can also be used for wiping down and sterilizing equipment like tweezers, and they are great for getting sap off your hands. I like this brand because the other “inactive” ingredients are relatively clean and harmless.
—– ILLNESS : HOMESTEAD HEALTH KIT —–
Oral Antihistamine | We keep bees, so we also keep some antihistamine on hand. This is an emergency-only product. In the event that one of us (or perhaps someone visiting) takes an outrageous amount of stings, having some simple Benadryl on hand to mitigate the affects could help prevent a trip to the emergency room. Neither of us have ever had an allergic reaction to bees, but one man can only handle so much bee venom before he’s in a lot of discomfort. So far we haven’t had to use it (and Karl’s record number of stings in one day is 25!), but this is one time where reliable modern medicine wins.
Another thing I worry about is our dog, taking multiple stings to his muzzle (he loves to snap at flying things). In the event that he gets into a nest of angry bees, this could also be used for him.
We don’t use this for seasonal allergies, just in the case of mega bee stings. My approach to seasonal allergies can be found here.
Cough Drops | We do get the crud from time to time- and the worst thing is having a cough or a sore throat, and not having anything reasonable to suck on. I like the ones with elderberries and zinc- they taste good plus provide an immune system boost.
Elderberry Syrup | Speaking of elderberries, I can’t wait to make my own next year when our elderberries finally start producing! But in the meantime I have been keeping store-bought on hand. This is my first line of defense whenever illness hits. Elderberry syrup has been widely studied and has proven to help shorten the duration and severity of colds and flu.
Real Deal Chicken Soup | It happened once and I’ll never let it happen again: I got a terrible illness and was caught without soup or bone broth on hand. Gasp! I won’t be caught without it again! I now always keep actual soup with chicken and veggies frozen on hand, and am better about making sure I have broth in the freezer as well. I make my own, but you can buy it pre-made if you’re in a real pinch!
Puffs Plus with Lotion | Yes, seriously. When you’re sick, you get your very own box of the best. And it really does help with lessening a chapped Rudolph nose. There are always a couple boxes in the back of the closet, reserved for only the runniest of noses. I’m cheap, so we only break these out when someone is sick, and only because Karl insists (which I’m thankful for!).
Ultra Potent Vitamin C | While we try to eat plenty of foods that are naturally rich in vitamin C, when one of us gets sick we break out the bigger guns. This is a great vitamin C that was developed with the purpose of aiding the immune system, and has been studied and shown to actually improve immune function. It’s the one I use and recommend in my practice.
Peppermint Candy | For a mildly upset stomach, sucking on a peppermint candy or chewing peppermint gum is often all it takes to sooth an unhappy tummy. I’m prone to motion sickness, so I’ll use these for long car rides or other travel as well, as they help me with that.
Cranberry Capsules | For urinary tract infections, which can come on quick and intensely. One of the ingredients in cranberries prevents bacteria from being able to stick to the wall of the bladder. And anytime you can avoid taking antibiotics is a huge health win! These are organic and high-potency. At the start of a UTI I recommend taking around 2,000mg multiple times per day, followed by a LOT of water. There are a LOT of different brands of cranberry pills available, and most of them are no good. Get the good ones!
Non Contact Infrared Thermometer | It’s something everyone should have. Being able to monitor temperature and the changes in it during illness or infection can be extremely helpful. I like this model for two main reasons: it’s no-touch… which means there is no need to buy little sleeves or caps for taking oral or ear temperatures… because let’s face it- you’ll run out, you won’t get more, and then you won’t have any when you need them. You can also use it to monitor wound or skin infection temperature. And the second reason I like this model is that it takes regular batteries, not those little round ones that I never have on hand.
—– WOUND CARE : HOMESTEAD FIRST AID —–
Silver Spray | Though similar to colloidal silver, this is slightly different and I prefer it for topical applications. I prefer to let cuts and scrapes heal naturally if possible, letting my body take care of things. But for wounds spread over a larger area, or a wound that was very dirty, I like to use this silver spray as an anti-bacterial in place of something like bactine. It is reported to have anti-fungal properties as well, though I’ve not used it for that personally.
Aloe Vera Gel | This is a good brand: organic, cold-pressed, and with no other additives. That bright blue aloe gel in the sun block aisle? Yeah… don’t get that one. This will soothe and speed healing of the skin, especially for things like first degree burns, sun burn, or other minor skin irritation. You could keep an aloe plant on hand as well, just be sure it’s the correct kind.
Kinesiology Tape | This is something I first used as a Chiropractor in my practice for helping muscles to heal or behave differently, but have come to love personally for its can-do attitude in everything skin related. It’s like a huge, breathable, flexible band-aid that has incredible sticking power through sweat and heavy duty work, yet comes off your skin without ripping the first layer of it off. It’s magical. We use it mostly for creating custom bandages.
Vet Wrap aka Self-Adherent Bandage | This is great to have on hand for the animals in the event they need first aid care, but what it excels at in humans is creating a bandage that also has a little pressure behind it. If you’ve had blood drawn, you’ve likely seen the nurse wad up some gauze, place it over the draw site, and wrap it with this wrap. We can use it with the same idea in mind: for deeper, or more heavy bleeding wounds, use the same technique as your nurse. This is great for covering a wound, keeping it clean, and applying pressure to it.
Band Aids – Comfort Flex, Plastic, Breathable | While this probably seems like a given for first-aid, I’m particular about my bandages. I like the regular size ones and I like them plastic because they don’t tear my skin off. These also have channeling in the cotton part to let the wound breath. And they don’t contain Neosporin in them… I don’t want that stuff on my band-aids.
Large Non-Adherent Pads | If you scrape up a large area (like the time Karl got dragged across gravel on his shoulder by a rope attached to a large falling tree branch) these are nice to have on hand… and frankly, necessary. They cover a large area and they won’t stick to the wound, which you’ll appreciate. These are 3″ X 8″.
Small Non-Adherent Pads | I don’t like regular gauze- its awkward and it sticks to wounds. I do like having individually wrapped non-stick bandage pads on hand, mainly because they are sterile. And keeping a wound clean and free from germs is important. These are 2″ X 3″.
Bandage Tape | If you’re using either of the above large or small non-adherent pads, you’ll need some tape to stick them on with. This is the stuff- it stretches and breathes. FYI, you could also use the Kinesiology tape I mention above with the small non-adherent bandages instead of this tape.
—– BITES, STINGS & POISON IVY —–
Topical Antihistamine Spray | Something I keep on hand for one purpose, and one purpose only. Poison Ivy. We have it all over the place, and inevitably one of us gets into it every year. And while we’ve tried plenty of natural remedies, I haven’t found anything that works like this does to 1. stop the itch and more importantly stop you from itching it and then spreading it around, and 2. dry it up and prevent spreading in that manner. The side effects and risks are minor, and the reward is high on this one.
Rose Geranium Oil | This is what we use as tick repellent in the spring and fall on the homestead. It’s also safe for the dog (NOT CATS) so we use it on him too. Just a couple drops on our shoes or lower pant legs before heading out helps significantly in reducing the ticks we find crawling on ourselves. The specific species is Pelargonium capitatum x radens (there are others species out there, but this is the one reported to have the most tick repelling properties).
Tick Twister | The most important thing you can do when someone has a tick attached them, is to get it off ASAP. It has also been found that doing things like smearing a tick with petroleum jelly, or burning it while still attached runs the risk of it regurgitating its contents into you- which is exactly how you get Lyme disease. This is also why you never want to squeeze one. There are some genius tick-removing gadgets to help you remove ticks without having to touch them, without squeezing them, even if they are amongst hair or fur, and even if they are stuck in pretty deep. This is a good one!
Non-Deet Mosquito Repellent | There are always a handful of times when the mosquitos are awful here, and when that happens we try our best to stay in the house- those buggers can bite through jeans! We try to wear thick long-sleeved clothes and apply repellent to our clothes and exposed faces when working outside during high-mosquito time. And while I find that this stuff doesn’t keep them from buzzing around you, it does prevent them from actually biting a lot of the time. Mosquitos can carry disease, so preventing bites is important.
—– ODDS & ENDS —–
Fire Emergency Ladder – 2 Story | Wood stoves, fire places, old farm houses… This is a folded up ladder that drops out of a window and allows someone on an upper story floor to climb down to safety in the event of a fire. For less than $50, this is something everyone with someone sleeping on an upper story should have.
Emergency Drinking Straw | This straw filters up to 1000 liters of contaminated water without iodine, chlorine, or other chemicals; does not require batteries and has no moving parts. It removes minimum 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria, and 99.9% of waterborne protozoan parasites. Keep a couple of these in your home, or in your car in case of emergencies. And definitely keep one in your hiking backpack!
Hospital Go Bag | Think of it as a mini bug-out bag. If you are in an area that is far away from a hospital, having a bag you can grab and go in the event that you are rushing to the emergency room- whether for yourself or with a loved one, can be so helpful. A change of clothes, an extra sweater, some food, and a couple bottles of water are a good start. Cash and coins for vending machines, and an extra phone charger should get you through.
—- ALWAYS BE PREPARED —-
Homesteading and even more so, farming, comes with a lot of life-threatening dangers. Do you know these first aid basics?
Calling 911 in a rural area?
When out in the country and calling 911, your call may go to a call center that doesn’t serve your area (this is a life-saving tip I learned taking a local CPR class). And while the dispatcher should still have the means to help you, just know that they might not realize what city the address you’re giving them is in, which can slow things down.
It’s a great idea to have the “non-emergency” direct number to your nearest dispatch center in your phone. If you are having trouble getting through to 911, you can call dispatch directly with your emergency (at least in our area you can).
What to do with a severed body part?
Take care of the person first. The body part should go into a plastic bag and be placed in an ice bath. Do not submerge the body part itself in water without being protected by plastic, and do not put the body part directly on ice- this will give you best chance of saving it and not damaging the tissue.
Do you know basic CPR?
If not, learn it. There is no excuse not to, and you could save the life of a loved one. I see basic CPR for citizens classes offered through our various community education outlets all the time, often for very cheap or free.
While we all hope to never have to use these things, being prepared is the next best thing. Stay safe, my friends!
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