In any decent size emergency you will have to do basic first aid care for those around you. Hospitals and emergency care professionals will be overwhelmed with life threatening cases. You will have to take care of less severe medical care yourself. The first thing you need is training. Is it not all that useful to buy a really good medical kit with bandages, medical tape, ace bandages, gauze, gauze rolls, etc. if you have no clue how to treat basic medical conditions. In other words, having a bandage does not mean you know how to use a bandage. If you are medically handicapped do not let that stop you from getting a good first aid kit, but sooner or later you should get some education in first aid care.
So what should be in your first aid supplies? You should consider the type of emergency you are preparing for. There are some basic types of emergencies: one is the random accident, a sprain, cutting a finger with a knife, falling and scraping hands and/or knees. This happens all the time and is the basic stuff you should be prepared to handle. Another is the situational “accident”. Being involved with scouting and backpacking trips we learned to count on blisters, knife cuts, and 1st degree burns. Any campout with young men will result in these types of “accidents”. You should anticipate and prepare for them. Next is the advertised natural disaster such as a hurricane. You have advanced warning and can prepare for the event. The last type is the sudden onset natural disaster such as an earthquake or tornado. This last type requires more thinking, preparation, and education. Broken bones are likely in this last type, and where do you go for help? You may have to take care of these things yourself for the first couple days after an emergency.
With this in mind you should prepare your kit based on your knowledge and what is likely to happen. It is advisable to over prepare vs. under prepare. We recommend different levels of kits. A hiking kit and home preparedness kit.
The hiking kit is a smaller first aid kit designed to be light weight and portable. Below is a basic list along with a description of what to use it for:
• Sterile gloves: this is both to protect you from blood borne pathogens and to protect the patient from germs and bacteria. This is more important when working with people you don’t know or it is not possible to sanitize your hands.
• Hand sanitizer: for cleaning your hands and the wound area. Germs are bad, we want to minimize chance of germs and infection.
• Antibacterial soap: for cleaning your hands and the wound.
• Ace bandage: good for putting pressure on wounds, sprains, or holding ice onto an area. I had an operation on my leg once and an ace bandage supported and protected the incision so that I was still able to walk and move.
• Scissors: for cutting tape, bandages, clothing, making makeshift bandages, etc.
• Various quantities of different size sterile gauze and gauze rolls: used to cover lacerations or incisions.
• Variety of medical and athletic tape: used to hold dressings in place.
• Moleskin: for preventing and/or protection of blisters.
• Second skin: to cover and protect burns.
• Steristrips: for wound closure until you can get stiches or staples in place.
• Cortisone: poison ivy?
• Antihistamine: for treating allergies or allergic reactions.
• Triple antibiotic (such as Neosporin): protect wounds from infection and aid in healing.
• Thermal reflective blanket: keeping patient warmer and protected from the elements.
• SAM splint: for treating broken or dislocated limbs.
• Pen light: for checking pupil dilation in case of head injuries, and for light in case it is night time.
• Ibuprofen, aspirin, Benadryl, and various antibiotics
Kit #2: Home preparedness Kit. This is an advanced medical kit for the home. It can contain more stuff because you are not hiking around with it. It contains all the above items from hiking kit, just larger quantities, plus
• Facemasks with eye protecting, also antiviral mask
• Eye pad
• Quikclot or Celox trauma bandage
• Antibacterial ointment (e.g., bacitracin): protect wounds from infection.
• Tincture of benzoin (bandage adhesive)
• Anti diarrhea medicine
• Ibuprofen that can be used anally (in case of severe vomiting with fever)
• Field surgical kit and sutures
• Occlusive dressing: an air and water-tight dressing primarily used for lung or intestinal wounds.
• Large irrigation syringe
• Several cravat bandages
• Emergency resuscitator pocket facemask
• Stethoscope and BP cuff
• Fiberglass casting wrap
• Greater variety of surgical items
• Lidocaine, needles, and syringes
• Skin stapler
• Cotton tipped swaps
• Greater variety of antibiotics and other prescription meds
• Emergency cricothyrotomy kit
Each person in your group should be trained in the basic medical skills and have each carry a hiking kit. Each group or family should have someone in charge of medical and it should be their responsibility to train the others.