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Friday, February 26, 2010

What’s in your First Aid kit?

“It would be terrible if the Red Cross Bloodmobile got into an accident. No, wait. That would be good because if anyone needed it, the blood would be right there.”-unknown For the Cub Scout Readyman activity, boys are required to inspect a First Aid kit and explain the contents. So what exactly should they expect to find inside? If you buy a First Aid kit with “100 pieces”, you can bet 80-90% of the content is just generic “Band-Aids” in various sizes. A kit should contain so much more.
First, a short digression. Do you know the difference between a dressing and a bandage? A dressing covers the wound – typically an absorbent gauze. A bandage holds the dressing on the wound and keeps it from falling off. It could be tape or an elastic wrap. A Band-Aid is a product by Johnson and Johnson that combines a dressing with an adhesive bandage.
So yes, item #1 in a kit needs to be several sizes of adhesive bandages to cover your basic cuts and scratches. These can be bought cheaply in bulk at dollar stores or drug stores.
For large wounds, buy several packets of sterile gauze (four inch squares are best). Again buy a large package and share with friends. You’ll also need medical adhesive tape or elastic bandages to hold down the gauze. I favor elastic bandages since these can also be used as wraps for a sprained foot or knee or hand or elbow. You might need to include a small pair of scissors if your bandage roll resists tearing strips off.
Before applying the dressing, you’ll want to clean small wounds with triple-antibiotic ointment. Don’t try to clean or wash large gaping or profusely bleeding wounds. Cover large wounds immediately, apply pressure to stop the bleeding, and see a doctor.
Clean your hands with an antiseptic hand cleaner before (and after) applying First Aid. For First Aid kits in your car or other situations where you might be aiding a stranger, wear rubber gloves to prevent blood borne disease contamination. Include a plastic bag or garbage bag to safely dispose of blood soaked items.
If you’re trained in CPR, add a barrier mask to your public kit to block germs (and vomit) when doing mouth-to-mouth.
Don’t forget to include items for pain relief like insect bite swabs (Hydrocortisone to prevent itching) and child-safe acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Aspirin is discouraged for children under 19 as it can cause Reye’s Syndrome. Chewable aspirin is encouraged for adults who may be suffering a heart attack.
Tweezers are essential for removing splinters but potentially harmful for insect bite/stings. Scrape away, never tweeze, a bee stringer. Tweezing will push more venom into the body. Likewise use tweezers with care when pulling away a tick. Pull gently and slowly to avoid breaking off the tick’s head and leaving that embedded in the skin to cause an infection. Never squeeze the tick's body when it's attached as this will push more tick germs into the bloodstream increasing the chance of Lyme disease.
Include one or more large triangular bandages (like the Scout neckerchief) as a splint for injuries. You can make these yourself out of old sheets.
For extra credit, include an instant cold pack. These can reduce swelling with sprains.
In cold climates, an instant heat pack might save you from frostbite. Stuff it in your shoes or between layers of gloves. Do not apply directly to skin.
For kits outside the house, add a space blanket. Keep victims warm and covered after trauma to prevent shock.
If you have the space, add some Calamine lotion for Poison Ivy.
Last but not least, include a good First Aid book (or booklet) that you like and can understand.
Bottom Line
Your need at least one well equipped First Aid kit in your house. Another for each car. Your workplace should have a kit (required by law?) - do you know where it is?
Customize your kits for your activities. If you camp or hike or play sports you'll want more protection from insects, poison ivy, sprains, broken bones, etc.

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