Home and Personal First Aid

First aid is an important issue to address for everyone but especially for those of us who live in the mountains with medical help at least 15 to 20 minutes away.  I recommend that everyone take a first aid course or at a minimum have a good book on first aid in their home.  The Red Cross offers classes that include CPR.  Everyone at a minimum should know how to perform CPR (for heart attack victims) and the Heimlich maneuver (for choking victims).  I recommend you have two first aid kits, one for the home and one for travel.  When traveling or out roaming around in the wilderness it is advisable to carry a personal first aid kit and depending on the type of adventure you are planning create or buy the appropriate kit or contents to make your own.

At Home

You can buy inexpensive first aid kits for the home at Wal-Mart or more expensive ones from sporting goods stores.  There are military kits available at Army-Navy surplus stores that likewise vary in the level of medical emergencies they can address.  Most of the home kits from a Wal-Mart type store are rather simple and contain a booklet on first aid.  There are first aid kits online that can run you hundreds of dollars if you can afford the expense.  Likewise the more sophisticated kits from sporting goods stores contain an instruction booklet and list of kit contents.  Realize that a comprehensive first aid kit can be used at home or when you are out and about.  It is a matter of personal choice.

If you don’t already have a first aid kit in your home you probably have many of the contents of one scattered around the house or in a medicine cabinet.  It makes it harder to find the items you need when an emergency occurs if they are not centrally located or organized.  If you choose to make a home kit, I recommend you buy a mid to large sized fishing tackle box of the kind that has trays that automatically expand as you open the box.  Another homemade solution is one of the plastic or rubber products that have multiple transparent drawers that can be labeled and that often contain divided compartments in the trays.  Let’s look at what you might want to have in your home first aid kit.

 First Aid Books or Booklets

This will be the first and most important thing to add to your home kit.  There are a number of books to choose from and as I said some readymade kits contain booklets of basic first aid (those are the ones to choose).  You want a book that is written in a language you can easily understand and that has an index to aid in locating the conditions you need to immediately address.  The American Red Cross Standard First Aid & Personal Safety book is a good one for the less medically minded.  A first aid app, iSurvival for the iPhone is actually a copy of the Dept of the ArmyFM 21-11 First Aid for Soldiers and is quite comprehensive but easy to understand.  For those who want more than the basics there are the NATO Emergency War Surgerybook and the ST 31-91B U.S. Army Special Forces Medical Handbook (the latter manual has numerous medical terms and language that some may find challenging especially in an emergency).  The American Red Cross has an app called First Aid for the iPhone and for the android phone.  This app actually has videos imbedded to take you through critical actions like CPR.  iTriage for the iPhone is perhaps the best medical app I have come across.  It is well thought out, easy to use, and thorough.  They now have it for android phones as well.  It is one stop shopping and includes finding medical facilities and doctors near your location (GPS locator must be on), hotlines, medications, procedures, symptoms, conditions, and medical news.  The above-mentioned apps are all free.

 Medications

Prescription Medications Keep a minimum of 2 weeks supplies on hand (more if you can get it) in the kit and replace them when they expire.  If disaster strikes you may need to leave quickly and this kit will contain all you need less any items that require refrigeration.  If you can get your doctor to prescribe anti-viral drugs to have on hand for influenza then do so for your whole family.  Tamiflu™ works.  I know first hand when my oldest son got the flu during a wide outbreak around three or four years ago.  I got it to him in the first twelve hours and in just a matter of four to six hours he was on his feet.  There are apps that you can download that address the detail on just about every medication.  Epocrates™ has apps for the iPhone and android phones.

Antiseptic solutions (like hydrogen peroxide or Betadine) Hydrogen peroxide may be used for minor scratches and cuts, not deep or puncture wounds.  Betadine is good for the deeper wounds.  Hydrogen peroxide can also be used as a mouthwash when diluted (not after tooth extraction).  Read antiseptic labels for cautions and uses or you may cause serious secondary injury.

Hand sanitizergel is a convenient way to wash hands to prevent the spread of bacteria when fresh water and soap are not available (and will not dry up like sanitary towelettes).

Iodine Is an antiseptic good for deeper wounds.  Some bottles come with an applicator but a cotton ball can be used to apply.

Rubbing Alcohol (or Isopropyl Alcohol) Good for disinfecting but not for deep cuts or punctures

Antibiotic Ointments (e.g. Neosporine, Bacitracin) Used to prevent infection of insect bites, minor cuts, or wounds.

Hydrocortisone (1%)or Benadryl cream for relieving itching from bug bites or skin rash.

Styptic Pencil for stopping bleeding of minor cuts.

Bandages and Dressings

Liquid band-aids for minor cuts – also acts as an antiseptic)

Adhesive tape, 1/2 inch wide

Sterile gauze pads, 4 x 4 inches (individually wrapped)

Sterile non-stick pads

Assorted size band-aids (non-stick pads)

Butterfly bandages (in lieu of stitches)

Elastic rap bandage, 3 inches wide (with clips for sprains)

Sterile gauze rolls, bandages

Triangular bandage

Cotton-tipped swabs

Sterile cotton balls

Sanitary feminine napkins (2 each – individually wrapped; can be used for major wounds)

Super Glue can be used to close major cuts or wounds  but some would not recommend it and there are several OTC brands for animals and humans (Vetbond or liquid bandage) specifically for medical uses but they are not as strong as super glue.  The super glue bandage will fall off in 2 to 3 days as the wound heals.

Antihistamines – Over the Counter (OTC)

Benadryl (25 mg capsules) for allergic reactions and bee stings and also good if you can’t take other antihistamines because they elevate blood pressure (Note: if you have serious bee sting or food reactions have your doctor prescribe an EpiPen™ to carry with you)

Other too numerous to address here but for nasal and upper respiratory allergies

Pain Relievers (OTC)

Note:There are safety issues associated with all pain medicationsso read the labels and heed before taking or giving them to others.

Acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol) Safe for the stomach in lieu of aspirin to relieve pain (Note: Overdosing can damage the liver; children dosages are available)

Aspirin (Note:aspirin will thin the blood so use caution particularly if you are on blood thinners. Children should not use aspirin.  Aspirin goes bad and smells acidic when it has) Aspirin is good for pain, fever, and can stop a heart attack or reduce its severity if taken immediately (the uncoated type is recommended because it will act rapidly for heart attack victims).

Excedrin is a great headache pain reliever that combines Aspirin and Tylenol with caffeine. (Note: Again understand the cautions before taking or giving this medication)

Ibuprofen (e.g. Advil or Motrin) works well for inflammation of joints and for muscle pain. (Note:Ibuprofen like aspirin will thin the blood. Never take this drug with aspirin or Tylenol)

Syrup of ipecac for poison ingestion (Note:call 911 before using)

Anti-diarrhea medication (e.g. Imodium)

Laxative

Insect-repellent (Note: DEET containing products work best but read the warnings)

Burn Ointment

Eye Drops for allergies

Sun Screen (SPF 45 minimum that block UVA and UVB rays)

 Standard OTC Medicines

For cough, colds, flu, and allergies (if you have children get the children’s brands as well). Note: Benadryl is tolerated well by most people for allergic reactions when you don’t have a prescription for an EpiPen™ (see above under antihistamines)

Equipment

Chemical cold/hot packs

CPR Mouthpiece (can be obtained from your local Red Cross or contained in some first aid kits)

Flashlight (Small preferably the LED type, they are brighter and batteries last longer – up to 100s of hours) and extra batteries

Nitrile or Vitrile Gloves (latex and powder free. Note: Some people are allergic to latex.  They can be purchased by the box in one-size fits all or by size.  They can dry rot when exposed to extremes of heat and cold so check them and change them out.  There are differences between these two types of gloves.  Vitrile is a blend of vinyl and Nitrile and less expensive than Nitrile only gloves.)

Magnifying Glass (power 5x to 7x)

Needles (sewing) for small foreign objects removal

Razor blades or scalpel blades

Scissors (preferably with rounded tips)

Sharp Knife (dull knives are more dangerous than sharp ones because they require more force to do the job)

Thermometer (battery type for ear works for all but I recommend having standard mercury types for backup – mouth type for adultsand rectal type if you have children)

Tweezers (a good pair that you know can grip small objects the size of facial hair) a small pair and a longer larger medical pair for bigger deeper objects.

 Personal First Aid Kits for Travel

These travel kits will contain many of the same items in the home kit but what they contain will depend on what you plan on doing, how far from help or your vehicle you plan on being, and if you may be alone. For short distances from my vehicle I carry a small fanny pack size kit that contains the following items:

First aid Booklet (and an app on your phone)

Adhesive tape, 1/2 inch wide

Sterile gauze pads, 4 x 4 inches (2 each, individually wrapped)

Super Glue

Sterile non-stick pads

Assorted size band-aids (non-stick pads)

Iodine

Triple Antibiotic Ointments

Scissors

Tweezers

Compass

Benadryl (4 each, 25 mg capsules)

Leatherman Tool

The small kit I carry in my briefcase doesn’t contain some of these items because they are not allowed onboard aircraft or ships. The medications, both OTC and prescribed, are in this kit however.

 Personal First Aid/Medical Kits for Travel/Emergencies

For the long trips away from the home and deep into the wilds I carry a much more comprehensive kit based on a military corpsman’s kit (in a soft pack that fits in my back pack) with my added items. Here is what that kit contains:

First Aid Booklet (and an app on your phone)

Prescription Medications (2 weeks supply and includes oral antibiotics & eye drops)

Hand sanitizergel

Iodine (antiseptic and good for deeper wounds)

Rubbing Alcohol

Triple Antibiotic Ointments

Hydrocortisone (1%)

Styptic pencil

Water purification tablets

Salt tablets

Adhesive tape, 1/2 inch wide

Sterile gauze pads, 4 x 4 inches (individually wrapped)

Sterile non-stick pads

Assorted size band-aids (non-stick pads)

Butterfly bandages (in lieu of stitches)

Elastic wrap bandage, 3 inches wide (with clips for sprains)

Sterile gauze roll, bandages

Cotton-tipped swabs

Sterile cotton balls

Sanitary feminine napkins (2 each – individually wrapped for major wounds)

Super Glue

Quikclot and/or Celox(for major bleeder or puncture wounds)

Benadryl (25 mg capsules)

EpiPen™ (For serious allergic reactions that may lead to anaphylactic shock)

Other for nasal and upper respiratory allergies

Acetaminophen

Aspirin

Ibuprofen

Anti-diarrhea medication (e.g. Imodium)

Insect-repellent (DEET containing)

Burn Ointment

Eye Drops for allergies

Sun Screen (SPF 45 minimum that block UVA and UVB rays)

Compass

Flashlight – headlamp type (LED type + spare batteries)

Nitrile/Vitrile Gloves (2 pair)

N95 Mask (Particulate Filtering Facepiece)

Magnifying Glass (power 5x to 7x)

Needles and thread

Military Field Surgical Kit & Manual (contains scalpel & blades and suture kit)

Scissors

Leatherman Tool

Thermometer (standard mercury – mouth type for adults)

Tweezers (longer lager medical pair).

Signal Mirror

Space Blanket

Magnesium fire starter

Cigarette lighter

Dry self-striking matches

 These kits are only of value if you keep them with you and you replace those items that expire or are consumed.  This is by no means the final answer to first aid kits and their use.  Training and preparation are just as important.  I recommend taking a First Aid and CPR course.  A checklist in the first aid kit is advised to help the user to know at a glance what is available.  I have had more than one occasion to use my kits.  The smaller travel kits for helping in a car accident once and more recently for getting a fishhook out of my own finger (that’s another story).  The home kit has had frequent use over the years for all sorts of medical needs around the house.

Be safe and be prepared and hopefully you will find it rare that you use your first aid kits!

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