Health: A ‘proper’ first aid kit
The majority of first aid kits are designed pander to people’s secret desire to become the medical hero. The sort of medical hero that can step forward in the midst of an unexpected catastrophe, loft their trusty first aid kit into the air, and save the day. Unfortunately for these closet heroes, the majority of first aid boxes are unused and ultimately useless in everyday situations.
Take the first aid box that I recently purchased from a well known local supermarket. The box cost £14.99 and was sold with the banner line ‘For all emergencies at home and on the move’ emblazoned . Now, I am not an A&E consultant, but if there was a major pile up on the M25 I would rather have a mobile telephone to call an ambulance than a first aid kit.
For everyday emergencies that happen in the home, I want a good stock of the the basic necessities. What I really don’t need is the bizarre, token extravagancies provided in most first aid kits. Included in my £14.99 first aid kit were 4 arm slings and 10 sticking plasters. I haven’t checked the exact statistics, but if children are suffering 4 broken arms for every 10 cuts, then I believe they need more calcium in their diet!
I decided to create my own first aid kit from well known stores and from my own household items. For a budget of £7.50, I set out to make a kit that was half the price, but twice as effective as the supermarket brand.
So for my proper first aid kit I looked at what you NEED, not what you WANT. The main things you need a first aid kit for are: cuts, impact trauma (falls, items dropping onto you, swing ball to the face, freak hurdling accident), burns, allergies (hay fever and other), stings and poisoning (such as swallowed chemicals and/or medications). I will take you through the basic first aid requirements for each of these events
Cuts: You need a means of getting the cut clean, and keeping the cut clean and closed. For this you need simple alcohol wipes, and TCP will keep you well and truly covered for the cleaning, and plasters should cover the rest of your first aids needs. Anything more serious than a plaster can handle will require stitches, and thus transport to A&E.
Impact trauma: Remember the acronym R.I.C.E. Rest, Ice Compression, Elevation. For this you need an ice pack and a means of keeping this on you while providing compression. The ice can either come from an ordinary ice tray (not always convenient if you don’t have any in the freezer) or from an endothermic ice pack. An appropriately placed bandage will allow the ice pack to be placed on the affected area and provide an amount of compression.
Burns: Keeping burns under clean, cold water is a well known and free method for keeping a burn cool. After 10 minutes of cooling, apply cling film to the burn to prevent infection and any adhesion of clothing/fluff/dirt while on the way to A&E.
Allergies: It is a fact that simple antihistamines can save lives. These drugs come in tablets (useful for hay fever) or liquid, which is extremely useful in times when there is an strong allergic reaction. Liquid antihistamine can be administered in as small or as large a quantity as they can manage. In the event of a wasp or bee sting, products like ‘Waspeze’ or other sting easing pastes can be useful
Given the information provided by the whistle-stop trauma tour above, what do you need for your first aid kit? For £7.50 you can buy the branded products at unbranded prices as the active ingredient is identical:
- TCP and/or alcohol wipes
- A box of elastoplast plasters (much better than the waterproof rubbish).
- 2 lots of exothermic icepacks.
- 2 bandages
- Cling film (about 1 metre kept in a sandwich bag will be plenty)
- Antihistamine in liquid form (benadryl or similar).
- Waspeze or similar
Granted, this list will not allow you to sling 4 broken arms at the same time, but then again, you would hope that an ambulance would be called in the event of a sudden outbreak of brachial fractures. In the worst case, something as simple pullover or a towel will work as a makeshift sling, until the professionals arrive with the proper equipment. The items listed above will allow you to cover 95% of all accidents you will encounter at home, and you can easily replace any items you use, instead of buying a new first aid kit every few months.
If you would like to expand your kit, then simple analgesics (like aspirin and ibuprofen) would be a good addition, and maybe glucose/dextrose tablets to reverse the effects of low blood sugar. Beyond these items, you are really wasting your money.