When you think about a first aid kit, what do you see? Images of red boxes filled with band-aids, ointment, and oddly shaped bandages probably flood your mind. But, in an increasingly dangerous world, these kits are woefully outdated. With the threat of terror and natural disasters, it is important to have the knowledge and the tools to keep you and others safe.
What You Need to Know
Eventually, whether you’re at home or on the job, you will find yourself in a situation where you become the first responder. Being prepared with a basic understanding of first aid and having the proper first-aid kit is only half the battle.
Most people imagine day-to-day crises as similar to the news-making traumas and accidents reported in the media. But in reality, the more common issues people experience are minor incidents like illnesses and accidents. However, improperly handling even a minor situation can cause many conditions to become life-threatening. In the event that no one is able to come to your aid, having the right items on hand to successfully handle these stressful situations is key.
Basic Items to Have in Your First Aid Kit
- Scissors: scissors can help cut thick fabric like seatbelts, shape adhesive bandages, and remove clothing to examine victims.
- Safety pins & adhesive tape: these allow you to place bandages and other items on your patient as needed.
- Non-latex gloves: gloves are one of the most important items to carry in your first aid kit because they can prevent the transmission of diseases between you and your patient. While there are gloves made from latex, many people are allergic to it, so carrying non-latex gloves will work for everyone.
- Antibiotic ointment & antiseptic solution: knowing how and when to use these two highly undervalued items is crucial. Infections that develop from wounds are life-threatening and can spread quickly. Therefore it is important e to use these items when necessary, especially when you may not be able to transport your patient to a hospital immediately.
- Antibiotics kill bacteria and other microbes at the site of injury.
- Antiseptic solution prevents the growth of bacteria on hands and surfaces and should be used both before and after treatment to clean and disinfect.
- Adhesive bandages (in a variety of sizes and shapes): bandages are a critical item to have in a first-aid kit. They are used for a large number of situations, from simple scrapes to deep punctures, so it is important that you have a good selection on hand.
- Elastic bandages: elastic bandages can help stabilize a limb injury or hold a bandage in place. Be careful not to overtighten them, however, as they can limit bloodflow to the area.
- Tourniquet: tourniquets are devices used on limbs to control blood flow. They are easy to carry but require special training to understand how to use them. They are handy to have around for any potential situation involving a deep arterial cut.
- Hydrocortisone: this topical steroid reduces inflammation and swelling. It has a myriad of uses, and is helpful to have if someone is exposed to an agent that results in rashes, redness, or bites.
- Emergency blanket: a blanket can be useful in many scenarios. From a preventative viewpoint, it may prevent hypothermia. If an accident has already occurred, it can help you move a patient or keep them warm if they’re in shock.
- EpiPen: an EpiPen is an auto-injection of epinephrine that reduces or gets rid of the symptoms of anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction). It’s most commonly used for bug bites and nut allergies.
Advanced Items to Have in Your First Aid Kit
If you have medical training and field experience, the items below will help you navigate most medical crises. These items should ONLY be used by EMTs or people with medical training. Improper use can cost a person their life.
- Glucose: Oral glucose (simple sugar) gel is used in the field to treat issues associated with blood glucose levels.
- Nu-Stat Blood Stop Gauze: These dressings are great to having for bleeding injuries – their main function is to help blood clot, effectively stemming the bleed.
- Chest Seal: Another great tool for traumatic injuries. A chest seal is useful to have on hand for abdominal injuries, and most commonly used for a punctured lung.
- OPA, NPA with lube: Nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal airways assist in maintaining an airway should your patient lose consciousness.
- Bronchodilator: Also known as a rescue inhaler, bronchodilators are used during periods difficulty breathing to expand airways.
Remember, you are the most effective component of first-aid.
Knowing how to use what is in your first aid kit is the best way to be prepared if an emergency arises. If you want to take your knowledge of emergency care to the next level, becoming an EMR (emergency medical responder) will teach you basic first aid, CPR, and how to move/stabilize a patient. These are valuable skills to have if you’re an active hiker, camper, hunter, or survivalist. EMR coursework is a also solid prerequisite for EMT (emergency medical technician) certification, where you will learn advanced life savings skills.