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Guide Health: Vital first aid for your first aid kit

Pre-packed first aid kits are convenient, but you should tailor them to your activities

Because most of us never really plan on needing them, it’s very easy not to think about that dusty box behind your workbench or the one tucked away in the trunk of your car. Giving your first aid kits just a bit of attention, however, can help make sure your kit does its job if and when you need it.

The first point is important, but very easy to overlook. The contents of your first aid kit need to be kept current. Adhesive bandages can lose their stickiness and get past their expiry date. Antiseptics can be contaminated. If they are, you don’t want to have to rely on them.

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Try to develop a habit of regularly checking your first aid kits. Pick a date, for example July 1st, or a time, for example the family’s annual road trip, and get everyone involved. That way your whole family knows where the first aid kits are and what they contain.

Ideally, you want several first aid kits depending upon your work or leisure activities. Having one in your home and one in your car is essential, but you may also want one in the work shop, barn, your gym bag, garage, and one on the tractor. The contents of these various kits will be different. For example, the first aid kit in your car will contain travel needs, while the one on the tractor may only have adhesive bandages.

A good first aid kit includes an assortment of sizes and shapes of adhesive bandages plus gauze pads and rolls and adhesive tape. Keep in mind that sensitive-skin adhesive tape is easier to remove. An elastic bandage for supporting strained muscles is also a good idea.

You can include scissors for cutting gauze and tape, as well as tweezers for removing gravel or debris from wounds. These scissors and tweezers should be used only for first aid purposes, not for sewing or in the bathroom.

Hydrogen peroxide is an effective antiseptic and does not sting, which is especially important for treating children’s cuts and scrapes. Individually wrapped antiseptic pads or alcohol swabs are alternatives which travel well.

Other items for your first aid kit may include a thermometer, first aid manual, and hot or cold compresses. Disposable hot or cold compresses are available, but a hot water bottle or ice bag are economical alternatives. An easy warm compress is either a cloth heated by wetting it with warm water or a microwaved wet cloth. Remember to wrap the warm cloth in a towel so that the heat does not harm the skin. An easy cool compress is a bag of ice or frozen vegetables, again wrapped in a towel to prevent skin damage.

Your first aid kits should be tailored to your family’s activities. If your family does a lot of walking or hiking, you will want to include foot care products. If you are travelling and tasting new foods an antacid, stomach acid reducer, or antidiarrheal product may be needed. If outdoor activities are planned, your family’s first aid kit may contain an antihistamine, an anti-itch product such as calamine lotion, sun screen, or even a sun burn remedy.

You may want to include an analgesic such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Acetaminophen alleviates pain and reduces fever while ibuprofen also reduces inflammation. Acetylsalicylic acid or ASA is not recommended for children, including teenagers, because of its link to Reye’s syndrome, a rare but fatal nervous system condition.

Pre-packed first aid kits are convenient, but if you make your own you are able to customize it for your family’s needs. Once you have collected all the items for your first aid kit, place them all in a waterproof container and make sure that everyone in your family knows where it is stored.

Being prepared will enable you to deal with minor injuries. Remember though that if you use a supply, replace it. And, of course, keep emergency telephone numbers handy.

About the author

Contributor

Marie Berry is a lawyer/pharmacist interested in health and education.

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