You’re probably wondering “What is an IFAK’? Let us explain.
You are on the annual hunting trip that brings in a big bulk of meat for your family. Your camo is working well, the wind is right, and the stories of the deer bagged so far this year have you excited knowing that you and your son will bring home a prized buck for sure.
Suddenly, you find that your camo was a bit too good. Another hunter mistook your stalking for a grazing deer in the brush and struck you in the leg with a rifle round. You know basic first aid and understand that what you decided to do in the next few minutes will determine if you live or die, can walk on two legs again, or have to learn to use a prosthetic. This is where you reach for your Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK).
What is an IFAK
Your Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK) has everything you need to provide first aid while you’re out on your own.
To ensure that your IFAK will be of the most benefit to you, it should be packed with certain items and in a certain way. This is to avoid digging through non-essential gear, delaying lifesaving treatment.
Ask yourself these questions when packing your IFAK.
- When packing the IFAK, you should ask “Do I hope to never need this?” If the answer is yes, then it goes in the IFAK.
- The second question is “Do I know how to use this?” If the answer is no, do not take up space with an item that cannot be used, or worse, if used can hurt you more. Get the training needed for every item you carry.
- Third, the only patient for your IFAK is you. This ensures that you will always have one in a location you know of should you become injured. If it is your buddy who gets hurt, use his IFAK on him.
- Fourth would be keeping your IFAK in a location that can be reached by either hand and can easily be seen by anyone who comes to your aid.
What Goes into the IFAK
- Tourniquet. At least one should be in every pack. The only ones used must be able to be applied with one hand in the dark.
- Blood stopper gauze. This is gauze that has petroleum jelly on it to help stop bleeding. Many of these come in foil packaging that can be used as an emergency dressing for sucking chest wounds.
- Duct tape. Combined with the foil package, this will help close a sucking chest wound. Thin strips can also be used as emergency field stiches. I like to lay layers on top of each other on a hard plastic card with the ends of each strip of tape folded over for quick removal and space saving.
- Saline. Small bottles of saline to flush out wounds.
- Gauze. 4×4 and 2×2 sterile gauze to cover wounds.
- Israeli Battle Dressings. These guys take up much less room than a bunch of gauze and help to stop bleeding well.
- Trauma shears. A small pair of shears are needed to quickly expose injuries and check for additional wounds.
- Gloves. These protect you from blood borne pathogens and, if light colored, help to show blood when checking the injured person.
- Light. A pen light to check pupils and see your work is needed. I also like to add a chem light for additional illumination of the work space and as a marker to rescue teams.
- Chest needle. **IF YOU ARE NOT TRAINED TO USE THIS, DO NOT ADD IT TO YOUR KIT** This will help relive a tension pneumothorax.
- First Aid Card. A durable and easy to read card that will help rescuers under stress to not miss steps.
- Ibuprofen. This is the only item that is not “I hope I never need that,” but it should only be used under such conditions. A few thousand mg of Ibuprofen will help reduce pain after an acute injury.
- Splinting material. I do not carry splinting material in my IFAK, but many do. I find it takes up too much room and improvised splinting material is generally abundant. I’d rather have more gauze or saline than a splint.
By fitting together a proper IFAK and keeping it in a location that is easy for the injured or rescuer alike to locate and use, many lives have been saved. Any extended trip from home or out into the field should be accompanied by one.