10 Items That Every First-Aid Kit NEEDS:
- Trauma Tape. Even if you’re the careful kind who rarely bumps into things, you can never account for when an accident may happen. These dressings are designed to stem the flow of blood should you suffer an open wound. A standard 5×9” one from the Red Cross costs $5 and will suffice in most cases.
- Assorted Band-Aids. These offer much-needed relief from chafing or shoe bite that’s been bugging you for the last few miles. Stock up on different shapes (rectangular, round, and square) to cover hard-to-reach areas with ease.
- Duct Tape. There is a saying, “If you can’t fix it with duct tape, you’re not using enough duct tape.” This applies to wounds as well. The main uses of duct tape in first-aid are:
- As a makeshift tourniquet (though a belt or T-shirt works better)
- To make eyecups to protect punctured or scratched corneas
- To create splints for broken bones
- To make a one-way valve for chest wounds
- To close and keep dry an open wound
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- Thermometers (digital and analog). For all the times when you can’t figure out your temperature using the back of your hand. For safety, ensure that the thermometers do not use mercury, and are not made of glass.
- Safety Pins, Tweezers, and Scissors. While it isn’t recommended to play around with sharp objects when injured, these are a must. Safety pins can help keep a heavy bandage closed, scissors will help you cut bandages, and tweezers can remove splinters before infection.
- Cotton, Gauze, and Crepe Bandages. All these items are just as versatile as they were 250 years ago. Cotton has many uses outside of first-aid too, such as insulation and water absorption.
- Basic Medication. These seven items will help you deal with 70% of any problems you face when traveling:
- Aspirin: For minor aches and pains, reducing inflammation, and headaches.
- Bactine: Acts as an anesthetic spray.
- Calamine Lotion: Helps soothe skin irritations. Helpful for poison ivy, poison sumac, and poison oak.
- Campho-Phenique: Antibiotic spray (aerosol).
- Acetaminophen: Painkiller, though this might have side effects.
- Ibuprofen: For times when aspirin won’t reduce inflammation.
- Loperamide: For controlling sudden outbursts of diarrhea.
- Medicines for the Outdoors. These optional seven items are a must if you have lots of wilderness/outdoor activities planned on your trip:
- Bug Spray. It would be wise to do research about the insect life in the area and stock up accordingly. Carry two bug repellents.
- Mosquito Repellent. Mosquitoes are often immune to the one-size-fits-all bug sprays in the market; carry some lotion, spray, or a clothing patch that repels them.
- Antiseptic Cream. For those minor scrapes against a tree or branch. Using this is as easy as applying it and forgetting it, but it might very well save your life.
- Antiseptic Ointments. These are what make children cry at the doctor’s office because they sting. Keep a bottle in your kit for times when the watered-down cream won’t cut it.
- Antihistamines. These are lifesavers if you break out in a rash during allergy season, or if you get a case of the sniffles.
- Antacids. If you’re traveling, especially overseas, there is a possibility that the local cuisine will not agree with your stomach. To avoid multiple unwanted trips to the bathroom, pop a few of these into your first-aid kit.
- Emergency Blanket. These do so much more than just protect you from the elements. The shiny side deflects heat and keeps you cool, and the matte side absorbs heat and keeps you warm.
The shiny side of the blanket can also be used to flash an SOS signal in an emergency. You can twist it and use it as a tourniquet or wrap broken bones in a splint.
This fits inside a 5×7” pocket-sized package, so carry at least three.
- Glucose and Electrolyte Powder. This is only really applicable to sunny, humid, or hot areas where you tend to sweat a lot. As the sweat evaporates from your skin, it takes with it much-needed salts from your body. Replenish these periodically to avoid getting dehydrated.
- Transponders and SOS Beacons. If you’re the outdoorsy kind who frequently hikes, climbs, treks, camps, hunts, or boats in the wilderness, these are a must. Also, don’t forget to inform someone at the nearest town or occupancy of the general area that you will be in. This will enable search parties to find you with relative ease should the need arises.
Things to Remember
- Storage is key. Make sure the box or bag that you’re storing all of your stuff in is waterproof and drop-proof. After all, there’s no point in wet supplies.
- Check the gauze. Don’t just buy the first pack of gauze that you see on the counter. Ensure that it is hemostatic gauze. This means that it helps stem the flow of blood.
- Stock up on knowledge. First-aid is a tool that can save someone’s life, but like other tools, it is only as good as the person using it.
- Oven baggies. Load up on a few resealable oven bags, as they can come in handy as waterproof storage, an ice pack if you freeze them, and even to store and isolate contaminated objects.
- Flight kits are different. Don’t pack tweezers, safety pins, or scissors into your first-aid kit if you’re expecting to fly, as these will only cause unnecessary problems with airport security. Instead, pack the remaining items and buy these once you’ve cleared customs at your destination.
- Check the expiration. Not only is this dangerous and possibly fatal, but you could get fined in certain places if you’re carrying around too many expired medicines. Check your first-aid kits regularly and replace expired items.
- Personal items. It is inadvisable to pack your daily medication with your first-aid kit, because it may react with other items, and it gets confusing with the sheer number of pills in there.
Your first aid kit may save your life. However, if you sustain a serious injury, professional treatment will be required. This isn’t so simple when it happens in a foreign country. Your domestic health insurance is unlikely to provide coverage outside of your country of residence, so any emergency treatment you receive could be your sole financial responsibility.
There is a solution to this, however. Before any international trip, purchase travel medical insurance or travel insurance. Don’t just purchase the first plan you see. Do your research, and select a policy that can provide coverage for the activity you’ll be taking part in on your international trip. This way, if you unexpectedly become sick or get injured during your travels, your insurance coverage can provide financial protection from the treatment costs.
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No matter what you pack, everything in your first aid kit will be useless if you don’t know how or when to use it, and in what quantities.
That’s why the Red Cross recommends taking at least one first-aid course, especially if you are an active outdoor enthusiast.
Ready-to-use first-aid kits can be found at local drugstores, supermarkets, and pharmacies, and truthfully, they can suffice in a pinch.
However, the downside to this is that you may:
- Not be carrying everything you need
- Be carrying way more than you need
Neither situation is ideal, which is why it is always recommended to craft your own first-aid kit. Lastly, always pack 30% more than you think you’ll need.
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