Feeling mild COVID-19 symptoms? For the safety of our community, you do NOT need to visit the emergency department unless critical symptoms are experienced. Visit our COVID-19 hub to learn more. Visit the COVID-19 Hub

Florida first aid: How to cope in the Sunshine State

Published: Aug 15, 2017

By Wendy Malloy


There’s no place like home — especially if it’s Florida in the summer. Yes, the Sunshine State boasts gorgeous beaches and lush, tropical landscapes. But the flora and fauna can be hazardous this time of year if you’re not prepared. 

How to cope with minor irritations that come with the dog days? For starters, keep your home first-aid kit stocked with the right goods, said Dr. Dorothy Russ of the TGMG at TGH Brandon Healthplex.

“With a few steps of preparation, you can be ready for most incidents that occur,” said Dr. Russ. “Just the basics can help keep you enjoying your fun and out of the emergency room.” 

Her must-haves for a Florida home first-aid kit: 

  • Tweezers
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Band-Aids 
  • Gauze
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Scissors
  • 1% hydrocortisone cream
  • Calamine lotion

Once you have your kit in place, go forth into the Florida wild - keeping in mind, of course, the potential hazards that may lie in wait. Here are a few common afflictions, with Dr. Russ’s recommendations for prevention and treatment.

She added a word of common-sense caution: “Of course, if an ailment is not getting better or has the potential to have long-lasting consequences, the patient needs to be evaluated by a medical professional.”


To prevent: Apply SPF 30 sunscreen 15 minutes prior to going outside .  Reapply every 2 hours or after swimming or sweating. Don’t forget lip balm with sun protection and a sun hat

To treat: Aloe

Dr. Russ: “Natural aloe that you grow in your home or yard is always wonderful, but the drugstore aloe works well, too. Apply a thin layer topically - you can’t overdose on aloe, so be as liberal as you like with it. Very soothing.” 

Mosquito bite, bee/wasp sting

To prevent: Insect repellent

To treat: Antihistamine (e.g., Benadryl, Zyrtec) pills or ointment

Dr. Russ: “If you are allergic to bee stings, use your EpiPen and then head to the nearest ED for further evaluation. The body can mount a response to a sting for up to 72 hours after the initial contact, so the EpiPen has bought you time to go get fully checked out. As for repellent, do not use products with DEET on children or the elderly. If you do use DEET, apply it to your clothing, not to your skin.”

Addressing a jellyfish sting

To prevent: Watch where you’re wading or swimming.

To treat: First, rinse with sea water, then apply vinegar or rubbing alcohol for about 30 minutes. Then apply shaving cream or a paste made with baking soda and water and, as though you’re shaving, scrape a plastic item such as a credit card across the affected area to remove the tentacles; follow with cold water to help with pain.

Dr. Russ: “It may have worked for Monica Gellar on ‘Friends,’ but urinating on a jellyfish sting can actually aggravate the poison and make your sting worse. Don’t do it.”

Addressing poison ivy/sumac/oak

To prevent: Research poison leaves to refresh your memory of their appearance, wear socks/pants that cover your exposed ankles and calves, and avoid contact with poison plants 

To treat: Wash the affected area as soon as possible with soap and water; wash clothes affected with plant oils; treat with Tecnu ointment, calamine lotion

Dr. Russ: “The active ingredient in tecnu is called Grindelia robusta, found in gum plants and originally used by Native Americans as a topical salve. Calamine lotion also helps relieve itching. And everything your mom told you still applies: Don’t scratch, be sure to wash your hands often, and avoid contact with others until your rash is gone.”

Burned barefoot soles from walking on hot streets or sidewalks

To prevent: Wear shoes. Duh.

To treat: Cool water, soothing burn cream

Dr. Russ: “Another old wives’ tale is to apply butter to a burn. We do not recommend butter or petroleum jelly; they can keep heat trapped in your skin and aggravate the burn.”

Sprains and strains from weekend warrior activities

To prevent: Stretch before you begin, drink lots of water, don’t overdo it

To treat: Ace bandage/Coban wraps as a sling, Tylenol and Ibuprofen, cold compresses

Dr. Russ: “Begin with ice to ease your swelling, and then alternate with heat as your injury starts to heal. And be careful out there.”