First line of defense

The importance of  having a first-aid kit

By Barbara Pierce

Call it what you like — medical kit, first-aid kit, or survival kit.

The name doesn’t matter. What matters is you have one in time of need and it’s ready at all times. It should also be easily accessible.

First-aid kits are a must have for every home, ready when an accident or injury strikes. It’s important for a number of situations that don’t require a trip to the hospital or emergency room. These include ordinary accidents, minor falls, bee stings, burns, allergic reactions, and other common ailments. A well-stocked first-aid kit provides you with the supplies you need to be ready for most minor emergencies.

If you’re unprepared to handle a medical emergency, things can go from bad to worse fast. A first-aid kit can help reduce the risk of infection from wounds or injuries. It can also reduce the severity of the injury, and you may even save someone’s life.

If you have kids, you know how often they have minor accidents. You can count on kids getting hurt. Cuts, scrapes and burns are common injuries to expect, so prepare a first aid kit with the appropriate supplies.

If you live alone, it’s even more essential. There’s no one but yourself to rely on, and you may not feel up to running out to the pharmacy when you’re injured or ill.  So be prepared with all you might need.

Definitely, first-aid kits are necessary for every household, no matter the age of who lives in the home. Injuries can happen anytime and anywhere. When you have a first-aid kit within easy access of wherever you are, you will ensure the safety of everyone.

You can’t always keep your family from getting hurt, but you can protect them by having a first-aid kit.

Ready-made kits are available for purchase at most pharmacies or online. Should you purchase a ready-made kit?

“I suggest you just get the supplies and put together your own,” recommends Ashley Seakan, a pharmacist at CVS Pharmacy in Waterville. The ready-made kits may not come with what you and your family need. “No store-bought kit will be as good as your own,” is what many people state online.

Customize your kit

It’s easy to assemble your own and personalize it to your family’s needs. It can be as simple as placing some basic items in a container or drawer. It can be large, containing every possible thing you might need, or small, with just basics. Consider what you need for you, your family, and your lifestyle.

First, you need a container, and there are many options for one.  At our house, we just use a designated drawer. I like to open it so I can see all the choices of bandages, tape, scissors, etc. We don’t have small children who could get into it, which is a consideration.

For those who prefer a container, consider a Tupperware container (they come in all sizes) or other hard-sided cases, even a tackle box or plastic tool kit. Hard-sided is important if you will use it to hold glass insulin bottles or other things that could be broken.

Use zip-lock bags, Altoid® tins, or mini-geocache tins to separate and organize supplies in the container.

Johnson & Johnson first-aid bags are sold online and at pharmacies. A backpack or a huge purse can work almost as well.

If you have a large family, consider multi-drawer plastic carts on wheels. You can create a mobile first aid center that can be moved as needed, and it will hold a larger quantity of supplies.

Make sure the first-aid kit can be easily opened by everyone, so in an emergency, it can be quickly opened. If you have kids, teach them how and when to use the medical supplies.

Seakan and others recommend you include the following as basics in your first-aid kit: (See www.RedCross.org for a detailed list.)

— Adhesive bandages of assorted sizes

— Absorbent compress dressings

— Antibiotic ointment and antiseptic wipes

— Ibuprofen

— Acetaminophen

— A cold compress

— Hydrocortisone ointment

— Scissors and tweezers

— Sterile gauze pads

— Oral thermometer

— First-aid instruction booklet

It’s also advisable to keep a list of emergency phone numbers, including doctors, dentists, hospitals, pharmacies, and family contacts. If you or a family member takes medication, keep a few doses in your kit for back up. Also keep a list of medications taken regularly.

Another good place to have a first-aid kit is when you go out with your family. Keep it in your car so if something happens when you are out, you can start treating the problem immediately.

Consider taking a Red Cross first-aid class; they’re offered online.