Onion Harvest


Stick an onion in your ear – and other remedies

May 7, 2014   |   Tips

The tried and true wisdom to care for first aid emergencies in the backcountry and at home has changed significantly over the years.   Even the way CPR is performed by lay rescuers has changed.  Being prepared for wilderness emergencies doesn’t just mean sticking a few Band-Aids or a lightweight first aid kit in your pack when you start walking.

The other day I was flipping through some digital books on Google books and I came across the 1913 edition of Camping for Boys by Henry William Gibson. Among other interesting things, the book details some of the standard first aid remedies for common ailments and injuries – that is, standard practices of a century ago.  You don’t want to use this book as your first aid training manual.  You’ll see why in a minute.

Here’s what (NOT) to do in some emergencies:

Earache: If you find yourself with an earache, stick an onion in your ear.   Heat the heart of an onion in an oven or wrapped in foil.  When it’s warm place it in your ear – make sure it’s not so hot as to burn the ear.  This not only relieves the earache, but helps you to sleep.  Bonus points:  It makes your head smell like stir fry all night long.  Bears and other critters will really appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Burns: Try and avoid burns in the first place by using your bandana or a pot lifter to handle hot stuff.   Failing this, you’ll want to treat the burn.  Cover the burn with Vaseline, baking soda, bread, the white of an egg, flour and water, butter, grease, or fat, covering it with cotton and a bandage.  Mmm, good.

Sore Throat: Gargle with warm water and some salt added, and then bind a woolen sock around it. Fat bacon or pork may be tied around the neck with the dry sock. Keep the sock on until the soreness is gone.  Once again, extra points here.  What could be better than wearing bacon around your neck at night?



Seriously though… CPR is an important skill for wilderness emergency preparedness.  If you didn’t know, the American Red Cross and the American Heart Association have made changes to the way CPR is taught to lay rescuers.  “Hands only” CPR (that is, without rescue breathing) is now taught as a means of saving life until a professional health care provider can arrive on the scene. Locate a course near you by contacting your local Red Cross chapter.


Photo by sleepyneko


Deacon Kevin Richardson

Kevin is a Catholic Deacon who serves in a parish setting and works with adults and teens, incarcerated individuals, and people who are homeless. He grew up in New England and spent decades exploring, hiking, and camping in the forests of New Hampshire.

Deacon Kevin leads Holy Adventure Outdoor Ministry, located in Central Illinois, and provides unique outdoor programs and retreat opportunities (from several hours to multiple days) to encounter God while immersed in the beauty and simplicity of God’s creation. Programs are Bible based and offer an introduction to a wide variety of wilderness living and survival skills.