Do-It-Yourself Emergency Medicine: 11 Conditions You Can Treat at Home

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Remedies that are most effective for a sore throat and cough include echinacea tincture, manuka honey, oil of oregano, high dose vitamin D3/K2, C, NAC, cod liver oil, and zinc lozenges


The Ontario College of Family Physicians estimates that about 3 million people in Ontario will not have a family doctor by 2025. The Covid pandemic certainly had some impact on this. As well, aging physicians are increasingly retiring or dying at an accelerated pace, leaving many people without doctors. The death rate of even younger physicians in their 40s and 50s has also increased. People are then forced to use emergency rooms for both acute and chronic care.

Are there simple strategies that you can safely adopt to avoid crowding the emergency rooms? This article is by no means comprehensive enough to suggest that you can avoid contact with a physician altogether, but at the very least it provides information that allows you to take some control over various health challenges at home.

Of course, for serious trauma like car accidents you will need to go to the emergency room, but it’s best to have a good first aid kit handy in your home and car to at least stop bleeding.


Aside from antihistamines, steroids, the Epi pen, and OTC decongestants, there are non-drug alternatives that can both prevent and treat allergic reactions.  These include high dose vitamin C (6,000 mg or more to bowel tolerance – i.e. until you get diarrhea) daily. Also effective are quercetin (3,000 mg daily) and stinging nettle tea or tincture.

In terms of an an anti-allergy diet, avoid triggers like sugar, wheat, and dairy products as much as possible until symptoms clear and you feel stable.

Burns and Cuts

First and second degree burns respond nicely to pure aloe vera gel and topical vitamin E applied to the burned area. Hydrogen peroxide can also be applied to keep the wound free of infection if needed, but is more applicable to cuts and abrasions. (Hydrogen peroxide sprayed on cuts, scrapes, and cat scratches works quickly to kill bacteria and keep the wound disinfected as it heals.)

Chest pain

Chest pain is a common cause of emergency room visits – the main concern here is heart damage from a heart attack. If you cannot make it to the hospital in a reasonable amount of time, then it has often been recommended to take some ASA immediately to both reduce pain and prevent obstruction of the arteries with blood clots.

If the pain is due to acid reflux, then baking soda in hot water can also reduce chest pain by offsetting acidity (recommended dosage: 1/2 tsp soda dissolved in 4 oz glass of water). If the pain is due to intestinal gas, poor circulation, or excess blood clotting, then cayenne pepper may be appropriate;  cayenne pepper contains capsaicin which has strong anti-inflammatory properties and can help relieve chest pain. You can get this in capsules or a powder that can be mixed with fruit juice.

If the chest pain persists despite these emergency measures then definitely consult a doctor.

Colds and Influenza

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a common childhood virus currently being blamed for the surge in pediatric emergency room visits across Canada. Symptoms are similar to the common cold and include coughing, fever, runny nose, and a loss of appetite and energy. Testing can distinguish it from Covid-19 and the seasonal flu. More serious cases involve dehydration and a need for intravenous fluids.

Of course, like all viral illnesses including Covid-19, RSV could lead to superimposed bacterial infections like pneumonia and the need for antibiotics. It’s therefore very important to treat the symptoms early to prevent the need for ER visits.

Most of the cold and influenza remedies listed in my recent article on the subject [1] can be used for both prevention and treatment. Remedies that are most effective for a sore throat and cough include echinacea tincture, manuka honey, oil of oregano, high dose vitamin D3/K2, C, NAC, cod liver oil, and zinc lozenges. Astragalus and probiotics are also important.

Oil of oregano is one effective remedy for the symptoms of cold and influenza

As well, St. John’s wort, goldenseal, berberine, colloidal silver, olive leaf extract, ginseng, pau d’arco and garlic are all good natural antibiotics and immune boosters. Keep these stocked in your home medicine cabinet and take as directed by a knowledgeable health professional or follow directions on the label.


Believe it or not, many people have gone to the emergency room to get help for constipation when laxatives were unsuccessful. Aside from obvious dietary changes that involve drinking more water* and eating a high fibre diet, one can also use high dose vitamin C to bowel tolerance (5,000 to 10,000 mg per day) and magnesium citrate (1,000 mg or more daily until bowels move well) in powder or capsule form.

The main side effect of high doses of vitamin C and magnesium is diarrhea so just increase the doses to bowel tolerance (diarrhea level) and then lower the dosage until bowels move easily. For the real stubborn constipation cases, high doses of pantothenic acid (5,000 mg in a powdered form mixed with fruit juice) added to the vitamin C and magnesium citrate can also be quite effective.

(Editor’s note: Adding a teaspoon of unpasteurized apple cider vinegar to a glass of water, and sipping throughout the day, is helpful for flushing kidneys and relieving bowel stagnation. Things move better with cider vinegar in the diet. And adding kefir to your daily meals (made from dairy or coconut milk) is an excellent source of probiotic bacteria that can help restore bowel health and regularity; a tablespoon taken morning and evening is all you need.)


Diarrhea is something that can be caused by infections, food allergies (e.g. dairy and gluten), or by stress and anxiety. If you haven’t determined the cause or cannot reach a doctor and have tried Pepto Bismol, Immodium, and/or electrolytes without success, then consider some natural alternatives. These include plain calcium citrate in high doses (2000 mg), pancreatic digestive enzymes, and a good probiotic supplement.

If you suspect parasites then you could try a combination of artemisia annua (wormwood), black walnut, garlic and cloves to eradicate them.

In cases of suspected food poisoning, one can use activated charcoal capsules to bind and eliminate bowel toxins, so have these handy in case you are prone to gastrointestinal problems.


What about fever? According to Dr. Christopher Vesey, ND, author of The Healing Power of Fever, “Contrary to popular belief, a fever is not a symptom to be treated but a sign of a healthy, functioning immune system naturally working to heal the body. The rise in body temperature is caused by the intensification of efforts by the body’s defenses as they fight microbes and purify the internal terrain. Lowering a fever through the use of drugs counters the body’s ability to fight illness, infection, or poisoning and can greatly lengthen recovery time.”

Fever is therefore the body’s way of fighting an invading microbe, so suppressing it quickly with drugs prevents the immune system from adequately fighting the illness. Instead, some of the natural remedies you could use that support the immune system include bone broth (e.g. chicken soup), apple cider vinegar, turmeric, oregano oil, tepid sponge baths, vitamin C, and echinacea tincture or tea. Hydration is very important in fighting high fevers and the child should be encouraged to drink water at least hourly.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “A temperature up to 102 F (38.9 C) taken rectally for children ages 2-3, or taken orally for children older than 3, does not require medication.” For temperatures above 102F, Mayo recommends Tylenol or Advil. In these severe circumstances one can use Tylenol alternating with Advil every 2 hours until the temperature goes well below 102F (38.9 C)

If the fever fails to come down and keeps rising, or if more serious complications arise (e.g. convulsions or other neurological signs) then hospitalization is likely required.

Pain Control

Headache, muscle pains, and joint pains (especially if they are chronic but respond poorly to ASA, acetaminophen or ibuprofen) can also be helped by natural remedies. These include cannabis, high dose echinacea, ginger, curcumin from turmeric, enzymes like serrapeptase taken on an empty stomach, as well as pancreatic enzymes also on an empty stomach. There are several more of these natural pain remedies discussed in my previous Vitality magazine articles on the subject.[2]

Topical emergency pain remedies include DMSO gel and homeopathic Arnica cream or pellets that are especially effective after sports injuries, sprains, strains and other accidents. DMSO is a plant-derived solvent that allows whatever herb or mineral you place or rub in on top of it to penetrate deep into tissues and reverse inflammation as well as enhance healing. DMSO breaks down into methyl sufonyl methane (MSM) which can be taken in high doses orally (6,000 – 12,000 mg daily) to reduce pain, swelling and chronic inflammation. Many people use this successfully for arthritis relief.

Radiation Exposure

I’m not predicting that an atom bomb will fall anywhere near where you live, but global geopolitics is making nuclear war more likely these days.  Miso soup is one of several dietary tools known to help clear radiation from the body. According to Naturopath Suzanne Bartolini: “Miso soup was used as the primary antidote for the effects of radiation poisoning after the Hiroshima bombing. A 1990 Hiroshima University study concluded that people who regularly consume miso soup may be up to five times more resistant to radiation poisoning than people who do not.”[3]

Furthermore, one can be exposed to radiation while being a passenger on a jet or getting X-rays, especially CT scans and other types of medical irradiation. Whether exposure is from nuclear war or everyday medical procedures, a good antidote is potassium iodide. I usually recommend using 12.5 mg daily for at least a month after exposure, as well as a good B complex vitamin containing some niacin and niacinamide.

In terms of prevention, one can consume more sea vegetables daily such as kelp and dulse because their iodine content helps to protect the thyroid from radiation.

Sinus pain

N-Acetyl-Cysteine (NAC) is an amino acid that dissolves mucous and can help clear out nasal and sinus phlegm. Together with high doses of vitamin C, it often clears both sinusitis and bronchitis without antibiotics. If the sinus symptoms are triggered by seasonal allergies, one can also use stinging nettle tea or tincture and quercetin as a supplement to offset symptoms.

Other benefits of NAC include liver protection from drug overdoses (especially acetaminophen). NAC also boosts the body’s own production of glutathione, a major antioxidant that protects all our cells from damage.


Clove oil applied topically to the gums and teeth offers effective short-term relief from toothaches. If you also take extra vitamin C (2,000 – 5,000 mg per day), this will help to keep the tooth infection under control until you can get to a dentist.

Echinacea tincture applied topically, along with the clove oil as well as CBD oil which can be swallowed from cannabis or hemp, are quite effective as alternatives to analgesics including narcotics.

A Note About Chronic Conditions

Different types of chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart rhythm abnormalities can be monitored at home on a regular basis, potentially saving one from a need to visit the emergency rooms. Glucometers can be checked regularly for blood sugar monitoring, and one can also measure the blood pressure at home with a variety of electronic gadgets available from most pharmacies. There are even now available applications that connect to a smart phone that can monitor for a very common heart rhythm disturbance known as atrial fibrillation.


Of course, there are many other health issues that have not been addressed here, but I think I’ve covered the major areas of concern that drive people to the emergency rooms. If you wish to send in your questions regarding issues I haven’t covered, or wish to add your own DIY emergency medicine strategies, please post them in the comments section below.


Zoltan P. Rona, MD, MSc, offers consultations on nutrition and natural remedies in Thornhill. He has recently retired from medical practice as a Complementary and Alternative medical practitioner and now strictly offers nutritional consultations. He is the medical editor of The Encyclopedia of Natural Healing and has also published several Canadian bestselling books, including Vitamin D, The Sunshine Vitamin. To see more of Dr. Rona’s articles, visit: and for appointments, please call (905) 764-8700; office located at: 390 Steeles Ave. W., Unit 19, Thornhill, Ontario

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