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COMPLETE FIRST AID KIT

June 3, 2009
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Every outdoor enthusiast should carry a first aid kit, because Mother Nature is not always sweet and soft and warm and cuddly. But which kit is right for you? Now there’s a good question.
There are some advantages to assembling your own first aid kit, rather than buying one off the shelf. The reason for this is because, if you collect the components of the kit yourself, you know exactly what’s in there. Some of those items will be totally personal, such as prescription medications, or a motion sickness remedy that you know works for you. But if you buy an off-the-shelf medical kit, you might assume that, because it was professionally prepared by a company that manufactures first aid kits, it must be perfect. So you toss it in the camper and never know what’s inside until you open it in an emergency. Bad!
Of course, that’s not to say that a ready-made kit is out of the question. As long as you are willing to give some thought to selecting the right kit, and then probe its innards and alter the contents appropriately, it’s okay to buy a kit that has been prepared by someone else. When you go shopping for your camping first aid kit, there are some components that should rise high on your list of “must have” items. If those items are not already in the kit, they should be added after purchase.
Injuries that require first aid around camp fall into categories such as cuts, scrapes, burns, insect stings/bites, blisters, splinters, sprains, fractures, and heart attack. You need to have the right equipment on hand to take care of these situations. And that brings us to my list of Top Ten First Aid Items that should be in your kit. I placed these in alphabetical order, rather than in order of importance, because they are all important in the realm in which they operate. If they’re not already in your kit, look for these products at a medical supply store, or explain to your doctor that you are preparing a first aid kit for camping and ask where you might obtain these items.

1. Antibiotic / pain relieving cream — We carry Neosporin + Pain Relief, a first aid cream that can be used on open injuries to fight infection and alleviate pain. Bactine is another good product for instant topical pain relief caused by scrapes, cuts and bug bites, as well as for antibiotic protection. These are items that you will have to add to the kit yourself. You can buy them at Walgreens or similar stores.

2. Antimicrobial hand wipes — These are used for cleaning the area around wounds, and for cleaning the hands that will be treating the injury. An expansion on this concept is the use of a BioMed Pre-Scrub surgical hand scrub (www.hospitalnetwork.com ). Before you begin your wilderness nursing duties, consider how carefully doctors scrub their hands and arms before working on a patient. That’s what this item is for.

3. Aspirin — According to the American Heart Association, “Research shows that getting an aspirin early in the treatment of a heart attack, along with other treatments EMTs and Emergency Department physicians provide, can significantly improve your chances of survival.” Aspirin also has other uses for relief of fever or pain. The only caveat is that you need to ensure that the patient is not allergic to aspirin. Ask!

4. Bandages — An assortment of sizes to fit everything from little fingers with an “oweee” to big ugly cuts. Butterfly bandages or Steri-Strips are especially handy for closing wide-open slices until stitches can be taken at an emergency room. Add to the bandage category sterile pads in a variety of sizes, and medical tape that can be used to hold the pads to the skin to cover injuries that are too large for regular adhesive bandages.

5. Insect repellent — Bug bites can evolve into infected sores, so it’s best to keep the critters at bay by using a good repellent. Discuss this with your doctor or pediatrician, so you can choose a product that is appropriate for your family.

6. Moist burn pads — These are sterile pads that are saturated with sterile water and can be placed directly over a burn, scrape, cut or other injury to protect it from contamination. These are especially good for covering burns, because they help moisten the injury and are easier to remove than dry pads.

7. Moleskin — This is an adhesive flannel bandage that is used to provide cushioning protection around a blister or a hot spot before it becomes a blister. Cut a hole of appropriate size and shape out of the moleskin and apply it to the foot with the vacant spot where the blister or hot spot is.

8. Roller bandages — These are rolled up lengths of gauze that can be used as wraps to hold sterile pads or compresses onto a wound on an arm or leg, or on the head. Can be used to make a constricting band, in the case of a life-threatening injury that calls for extreme measures to stop the bleeding. You should also include a pair of EMT scissors for cutting the gauze or the victim’s clothing to gain access to an injured spot.

9. Triangular bandage — This is a large triangular piece of cloth that measures roughly 40”x40”x56” and comes with a couple of safety pins. It is used to form a sling to support an arm that has suffered a fracture or a joint sprain. It can also serve as a large wrapping bandage around a leg or the chest or abdomen, or as a head bandage or covering. And it can be utilized to hold a splint when stabilizing a fracture or sprain.

10. Tweezers — Nothing compares to a sharp set of tweezers when it comes to removing a splinter. If you’re careful to avoid squeezing the venom sac that is sometimes attached to a bee stinger, you can also use tweezers to remove the offending bee barb.

If I were to continue beyond my Top Ten, I would include the following:

• a first aid manual, just in case your emergency medical skills are a little rusty since your last Red Cross First Aid course.

• an emergency blanket that can be used as a tarp to lay an injured person on, or to wrap a hypothermia victim.

• a cell phone or other communication device (HAM radio, etc.) to call for help in serious emergencies.

Examine the contents of your first aid kit periodically, replacing contents that have exceeded their “use by” date, and refreshing your memory about what is in there.

For more of Rich Johnson’s expert advice on more outdoor topics, check out richjohnson-outdoors.com

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