Plan for Emergencies: Why a First Aid Kit Will Save Your Life!
Why a First Aid Kit Will Save Your Life!
by Greta Kviklyte
Life Saver, AMC
Co-authored by Kim Murray, RN, M.S.
posted on Aug 10, 2018, at 6:02 pm
No one wants to think about accidents and emergencies, but they do happen. According to CDC.gov, unintentional falls, cuts, motor vehicle accidents, burns, and unintentional incidents being struck by an object make up some of the top causes of nonfatal injuries in the U.S. Wildfires scorched a larger portion of California in 2018 than any other fire in history, reports The New York Times, and Mother Nature seems to be growing more unpredictable. Since no one can really predict when an accident will occur, the only solution lies in preparation, and knowing how a first aid kit could save your life makes all the difference.
First aid is an invaluable set of life-saving skills and techniques that can help people survive emergencies until help arrives. Although society has grown accustomed to 24/7 emergency access via smartphones and modern technology, it is not always possible to get help from emergency medical services as quickly as necessary. A minor fall can become a tragedy to those with pre-existing medical conditions; blood loss can lead to shock and cardiac arrest, and even a fun day at the water park can turn dark.
The opportunities for accidents and need for first aid exist in every layer of society and all locations. Preparing for the uncertain means preparing to handle these emergencies, so the importance of first aid is undisputed.
The Value of First Aid Kit
More than 25 million nonfatal accidents occurred in 2016 in the U.S., and nearly 200 million accidents occurred between 2010 and 2016. Unfortunately, this does not include the number of fatal accidents, even when emergency help was available. However, data analysis, via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suggests the prevalence of nonfatal accidents among all age groups has decreased significantly. Actual prevalence may vary slightly due to confounding factors, including population growth and accidents involving multiple injuries.
The risks for an accident or injury requiring first aid are not limited to natural disasters. Unintentional falls, cuts, bites, stings, and non-specific incidents may occur. The types of risks that result in a need for first aid depend on the risks for a given area.
For example, someone living near a body of water should tailor their understanding of first aid to include water and swimming risks. Insects near the water can spread infections, and the risk of drowning or suffering a cut from a submerged object is higher.
Injuries grow worse depending on how long the initial injury is exposed to possible pathogens, leading to infection. First aid provides a stop-gap to this risk by allowing a trained individual to bandage wounds and increase chances of survival until the victim is able to obtain professional care.
How to Create a Kit
Creating a kit from scratch can be overwhelming. Instead of getting lost in the hundreds of potential supplies and parts of an effective, well-stocked kit, limit it to the basic first aid necessities. These include:
- Non-latex, sterile gloves. Although latex gloves will work in a pinch, latex allergies may result in additional medical issues, not to mention respiratory failure in severe cases.
- Sterile dressings. Sterile dressings are often gauze-like pads that can be used to absorb bleeding or provide a cushion to an injured area. Do not stress over the type of dressings, but make sure they are at least the size of your hand. They can be cut to size if necessary.
- Medical shears. Medical shears or scissors are similar to traditional scissors, but they have a blunt end, helping to prevent additional injury. Include two pairs of medical shears in case one pair is lost or damaged when providing aid.
- Antibiotic towelettes and ointment. Triple antibiotic ointment and towelettes can be the first line of defense against infection. Consider purchasing one-time use packs of both for inclusion in the kit.
- Adhesive bandages of varying sizes. The easiest way to include this component is by purchasing a variety pack at your local drug store.
- Petroleum jelly can be used for abrasions and minor injuries requiring a moist barrier. However, petroleum jelly must never be used by someone on oxygen due to the increased fire risk it creates.
- Prescribed medical equipment. Medical equipment, like glucometers, lancets, nebulizers, and inhalers should be included in the kit as well.
Thermometer. Look for a digital, instant-read thermometer. Include extra batteries for the thermometer too.
- Burn ointment. Burns may occur, so include a burn ointment that can be applied in these circumstances. For superficial burns, like a mild sunburn, include a tube of Aloe Vera-based ointment.
- OTC and prescription medications. Include one-week worth of prescription medications and several OTC medications, such as Benadryl, Tylenol, and Ibuprofen.
- Baby wipes and hand sanitizer. It may not always be feasible to wash your hands before providing first aid. Including baby wipes can help debris injuries and clean your hands. If your hands are not visibly soiled, use hand sanitizer.
- Cotton-tipped applicators.
- A wrench. Although the wrench is most commonly used to shut off utilities in event of an emergency, it can serve a double purpose by allowing you to create a quick tourniquet with a roll of gauze.
- CPR barrier. A CPR barrier, such as keyring-disposable CPR mask, is another vital tool in the kit. It should be replaced when used, and since disposable barrier options exist, consider purchasing several. A quick Amazon search reveals hundreds of potential options, and if you are hesitant, consider speaking with your pharmacist about which barrier is best for you.
The final two supplies include batteries for any possible medical devices and a flashlight. Believe it or not; these two items may be used more than anything else.
Additional measures to improve the quality of your kit depend on the needs of your family members, co-workers, and friends. Moreover, some first aid kits can be too large to move without risking injury. Remember the kit is an emergency box, not a full medical office. However, a proper kit should include these additional supplies or documents:
Documents for Major Medical Issues. Write down major medical issues on a notecard, and include the notecard in a waterproof location in the kit. This will help first responders know how to address potential issues when you are able to get professional help, especially if you lose consciousness or are unable to answer their questions.
Note allergies to medications, foods, and insects. On a separate notecard, document family members’ allergies. This deserves its own step due to the risk allergens pose. After all, administering first aid is ineffective if treatment turns into a full-blown allergic reaction.
Include Emergency Contact Information. It’s difficult to imagine a world where people lack access to a phone and address book. Since society has grown reliant on smartphones, recalling family members’ phone numbers from memory may not be possible. Write down emergency contact information on the same notecard containing medical information. For kits prepared for larger organizations or family members, include a spiral-bound set of notecards, using a single notecard for each family member.
Label Medications Clearly. All medications in the kit should be labeled clearly. Manufacturer labeling may weather with time and be difficult to read. Use duct-tape or another medium to write the name of medications and dosages in larger print on the bottle.
Use a Waterproof Container. Waterproofing your kit is easy with most outdoor backpacks, which are designed to shed water. If you lack a waterproof bag, choose a waterproof kit container to place within another bag. This gives you the versatility of a mobile kit without sacrificing water-resistance.
Update Maps and Kit Contents Regularly. The kit contents should be checked for validity on a regular basis. Check medications and bandages for damage or expiration at least once per season. In areas prone to specific disasters, like coastal regions and mountain areas, check the kit more often, such as once per month.
Additional First Aid Preparation Tips
Taking a first aid course sounds simple enough. It involves going over possible injuries and how to provide first aid. However, true preparation for first aid and emergencies means going beyond the status quo, and following these tips can help you be ready for whatever incident occurs.
- Know Your Accident Risks. This tip relies on the incidents likely to occur in your specific area. It is important to know the risks of accidents for your area, including accidents at work, home, or at other locations. For instance, those in wildfire-prone areas need to know how to treat burns and prevent smoke inhalation when evacuating.
- Sign up for Government Alerts in Your Area. The National Weather Service maintains a vast resource for government-issued alert notifications for all U.S. locations. Although downloading an app, such as The Weather Channel, can help you stay informed, consider signing up for text alerts via one of the dissemination sources online. Additionally, consider downloading other health-related apps for providing first aid and medical care, provided you have the proper training and authorization to use such apps.
- Teach Family Members How to Mix Medications, If Necessary. Depending on the medical needs of your family members, certain medications may need to be mixed before administration. For instance, those with bleeding disorders should teach family members how to mix clotting factor medications as part of the planning process. For those with health care experience, like nurses, teaching family and community members about how to mix medications or perform first aid can be an excellent way to give back too.
- Plan Multiple Escape Route. Establish a primary escape route for responding to emergencies in both home and school environments. The primary route should be shared with all family members and friends, helping to prevent injuries from becoming lost in times of disaster or emergencies. However, the primary route could be obstructed or inaccessible when certain disasters occur, so create at least two alternate routes of escape. Include maps detailing these routes in your kit.
- Keep the Kit in an Easy-to-Access Location. A first aid kit is only as good as its accessibility. Do not keep a kit in a locked location, unless small children are likely to access it. The kit should be ready to go at any time. As a result, backpacks and bags with straps are a great feature.
Build Multiple Kits for Areas of Work, Play, and Home. Instead of carrying a kit between locations, consider creating multiple first aid kits, and place such kits in your vehicles, home, and office.
- Complete a First Aid Course. While creating a kit can help, it is even better when you know how to bandage and address possible medical issues. This is why signing up for a first aid course is key to maximizing chances of survival. Additional courses to take may include the FEMA Community Emergency Response Team, reports Ready.gov, and CPR or BLS courses.
- Practice Your Skills. Even when disasters are unlikely, it is important to stay on top of your skills by practicing bandaging different issues, splinting injuries, and evacuating your home or community. Hold monthly drills with family members and friends to practice your response.
- Remember Mental Preparation. When an incident occurs, the body’s rush of adrenaline will make decision-making troublesome. This goes back to practicing first aid and conducting drills to prepare your mind for the real event.
- Consider Learning Pet First Aid. Individuals with pets should also consider learning pet first aid. Although this may seem superfluous, pets may be injured during a disaster. However, do not attempt to provide aid to any pet or wild animal that you are unfamiliar with. Doing so may result in additional injuries.
Boost Your Survival Chances With First Aid Now
The risk of an accident or injury is everywhere. The smallest issues can become major health incidents in an instant, and first aid is the only thing standing between survival and tragedy. Preparation for natural and manmade disasters, emergencies, and unintentional accidents by creating a first aid plan and kit is essential to survival. Maximize your chances of survival through first aid.
Do you have any other tips regarding first aid planning and kit preparation for your area? Share this article and your thoughts on social media today, and don’t forget to get started on your first aid goals by signing up for your life-saving first aid instruction today.