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by Alan Krawitz
Medical emergencies can arise anytime and anywhere with little to no advance warning. They can take many different forms from minor cuts and abrasions to more serious injuries including deep wounds, poisoning, allergic reactions, sudden illnesses and even dental emergencies.
My own brush with a medical emergency was a couple of years ago when I was hiking at a state park on eastern Long Island. The trail wasn’t completely free of obstacles and I ended-up tripping over a rock in the middle of the trail. The fall wasn’t severe but I wound-up with a nasty cut on my left knee. If I had followed medical experts’ advice and kept a first-aid kit in my car, I could have treated my wound immediately with an anti-bacterial ointment and applied a clean bandage. Instead, I had to wait about 35 minutes until I got home to tend to my wound.
Luckily, the wound didn’t get infected. But, I shouldn’t have taken the chance and neither should you.
Emergency preparedness and medical experts agree that a well-stocked first-aid kit is an essential first line of defense when dealing with various types of medical emergencies. They suggest that kits be kept in the home, at work and in all vehicles.
Experts add that first-aid kits should be kept in easily retrievable locations that are out of the reach of young children. However, older children who understand the purpose of first-aid kits should know where they are being stored.
Many companies and organizations, such as The American Red Cross, streamline the task of assembling comprehensive first-aid kits and sell ready-made and pre-assembled kits with varied contents. For example, The American Red Cross Personal Emergency Preparedness Kit with Backpack is a one-person pack containing basic supplies such as emergency drinking water and a mini first-aid kit with assorted bandages and antiseptics that could prove vital in an emergency. The American Red Cross Emergency Smartpack with Backpack contains five packs of essential supplies to protect against the weather, maintain hydration and nutrition, treat minor injuries and signal for help.
However, for those who wish to customize their own first-aid kits, both the Mayo Clinic and the Federal Emergency Management Agency say that basic components of any first-aid kit should include:
• Adhesive tape
• Antibiotic ointment
• Antiseptic solution
• Bandages, including elastic wrap (Ace, Coban) and bandage strips (Band-Aid, Curad, etc.) in assorted sizes
• Instant cold packs such as (Therma-Kool Reusable Hot/Cold Packs, Instant Disposable Cold Packs)
• Cotton balls and cotton-tipped applicators
• Disposable latex gloves or vinyl gloves, at least two pairs
• Duct tape
• Gauze pads and roller gauze
• Eye goggles
• First-aid manual
• Soluble lubricating jelly or other lubricant
• Plastic bags for disposal of contaminated materials
• Safety pins in assorted sizes
• Save-a-tooth storage device containing salt solution and a travel case
• Scissors, tweezers and a needle
• Soap or hand sanitizer
• Sterile eyewash, such as saline solution
• Triangular bandage
• Bulb suction device for flushing out wounds
• Auto-injector of epinephrine (EpiPen), to treat an allergic attack, if prescribed by a doctor
• Activated charcoal (to be used if instructed by a poison control center)
• Aloe vera gel
• Anti-diarrhea medication
• Oral antihistamine (such as Benadryl, others)
• Aspirin and non-aspirin pain relievers
• Calamine lotion
• Hydrocortisone cream
General Emergency items:
• Cell phone and recharger
• Emergency phone numbers, including contact info for doctors, local emergency services, road service providers and regional poison control centers
• Small, waterproof flashlight and extra batteries
• Candles and matches for colder climates
• Mylar emergency blanket
• First-aid instruction manual
And, once your first-aid kits are assembled and properly placed, don’t forget to check the kits regularly, at least every three months, to replace old batteries and expiration dates on medical supplies.
Further, emergency experts also recommend taking basic first-aid courses in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) that also cover how to use an automatic external defibrillator (AED), an increasingly common, potentially life-saving medical device used on patients suspected of being in cardiac arrest.
More information on first-aid procedures, products and training is available through CWI Medical, a leading provider of high quality medical supplies and healthcare products to Acute Care Facilities and the general public. CWI Medical is also an ACHC Accredited organization maintaining standards of excellence in the Healthcare Field for more than 15 years.