THE FIRST-AID KIT
With A Personal
no harm." This is a prime tenet of the Hippocratic oath that all doctors swear
to uphold. It also is a prime directive for non-doctors attempting to render
first aid to themselves or others in an outdoor injury situation. Understanding
the aid limits imposed by the first-aid kit itself or by an untrained aid giver
keeps one from doing more harm than good.
understand that the "general" first-aid kit is a limited concept. Basic
first-aid kits, are just that, basic. They are starting places for personalized
first-aid additions that are determined by:
Environmental hazards inherent to the specific area.
specific outdoor activity and its known inherent risks and dangers.
- Your own
personal health history and personal medicines, including maintenance
prescription medications taken regularly and remedies for chronic or recurrent
conditions that could conceivably crop up.
The AREA and the ACTIVITY...
Where one is
going, what one is doing and how long one is going to be doing it -- all these
factors determine both the size and the make-up of the "personalized" first-aid
Long stays in the remote backcountry require more extensive first-aid
kits (and more first-aid knowledge) than short day hikes in green belts near
civilization. How far are you from help; how fast can you get to it or can it
get to you? These are serious first-aid concerns. (Letting someone know exactly
where you are going and when you expect to get out, is both a survival and a
The nature of specific activities should be considered.
Climbing and canoeing have high bruise and abrasion potential. Broken bones are
not out of the question in the more extreme forms. Hikers and hunters typically
deal with blisters, stone bruises, cuts and scratches. However, eye injury from
tree branches, falls and sprains are not uncommon.
Duration of activity
regarding first-aid issues has a basic tenet of common sense--"Unless the
injury is minor or superficial, come out and seek professional medical aid
On the other hand, long-distance hikers and wilderness
backpackers should consider remedies for sore muscles and joints that will
allow them to continue their activity.
The point is, consider the most
likely injuries or health-related risks for a given area/activity and build
extra "stuff" into the first-aid kit to deal with these.
READ THE MANUAL...
most important part of any first-aid kit is a good first aid manual. Read and
understand it. Then pack it with the kit. Prior reading and knowledge help you
start first-aid procedures faster and perform them better under stress. Have an
orderly, well-organized kit and a thorough understanding of each medication,
bandage and tool. Don't wait until the last moment, when in an uncomfortable,
stress-filled situation, to try to figure out first aid and find the
appropriate materials to administer it.
STIFLE THE PANIC...
THE MANUAL..." again. Panic can be drastically toned down and/or brought under
* You know where the first-aid kit is.
* You know what it
contains and what is required for the situation.
* You know how to use the
materials for effective first aid.
FIRST AID BASICS...
The extent of
first aid is limited by lack of professional medical training. Setting bones
and needle suturing are not recommended for non-professionals. However, there
are certain things that can and/or must be done until the doctor comes. Some
are vitally necessary and must be accomplished rapidly in an emergency
FIRST-AID BASICS -- Know How To:
bleeding (pressure and bandage).
shock (keep victim warm, still and comfortable).
infections (clean and apply antiseptic to wound).
wounds and tape (athletic bandage) sprains.
FIRST-AID KIT BASICS...
list of suggested first-aid materials should not be taken as the final word.
These are merely some basic items to be considered if you are building your own
kit or evaluating various commercially available models. However, only you,
after serious thought, can truly personalize a first-aid kit to fit your needs.
Also remember, even minor problems can turn into major discomfort in the
backcountry. Don't discount diarrhea, blisters or even heartburn as being able
to seriously impair the quality of your outdoor experience.
- TOOLS --
Small scissors, tweezers, thermometer, small flashlight, several sizes of
safety pins and several tongue depressors (finger splints).
Brand EMERGENCY BLANKET -- Post-traumatic shock can make some survivable
injuries much more serious. Use the EMERGENCY BLANKET to keep the victim warm
and sheltered. It can also be made into and emergency litter to help transport
an accident victim.
of various sizes. The regular 3" sizes is most useful, but include some of the
larger sizes for larger wounds, plus some finger-tip, knuckle and even the
- 10 each
4x4" and 10 each 3x3" sterile gauze pads. These help stop bleeding, and can be
used to clean and cover a wound.
- Two gauze
eye patches. A scratched cornea from a swinging tree branch or foreign
particles in the eye is very painful. Immediately flushing and covering the
injured eye will bring relief.
butterfly suture type bandages for quickly closing cuts. · One roll of
4" wide sterile gauze for wrapping.
- One roll
of 2" wide adhesive tape. The type that is enclosed in a container to keep it
clean and prevent drying out is preferred.
- One 2"
roll of elastic bandages (athletic bandage) for sprains and general wrapping or
for blisters. Blistered feet may sound trivial, but they are extremely painful
and debilitating in most outdoor activities.
- Eye Drops
or eyewash to flush eyes.
Antiseptics to clean wound and prevent infection.
Antiseptic wipes and antiseptic soap for cleansing. Examples: Betadine solution
or ointments such as Neosporin, Bactracin or Hydrocortisone cream. Iodine is an
old standby that can also be used to purify water. These are very important
elements of a first-aid kit. Preventing the onset of infection is critical in
the outdoors environment. · Anti-Inflammatory remedies for muscle and
joint soreness. Non-prescription types include Aspirin, Tylenol and some types
of Ibuprofen. Stronger anti-inflammatory drugs must be prescribed by a doctor
and can have significant side effects.
-- You may have to eat your own cooking! Also antacids can ease some side
effects of strong anti-inflammatory drugs.
Anti-Diarrhea Medication -- Speaks for itself.
Analgesics reduce surface pain and itching associated with insect bites,
contact dermatitis (poison ivy, rashes), etc. Examples are Caladryl, new
BENADRYL GEL (not pills) and products containing Lidocaine or Cortisone.
· Antihistamines reduce swelling in mucous membranes and soft tissues.
Effective for hay fever-type allergic reactions. Remember that your outdoor
experience will introduce you to new pollens and spores.
- Bee Sting
Kit -- Anaphylactic shock is an allergic reaction that can kill. If you or
anyone in your party is known to be allergic to bee, wasp, hornet, etc. stings
get a special sting kit prescribed by a physician. In case of unexpected onset
of anaphylactic symptoms (difficulty breathing), administer antihistamines.
This is an emergency situation; seek medical help immediately.
Bite Kit -- Current medical opinion discourages radical first-aid measures for
snakebite beyond simple suction and a slightly tight ligature above the bite.
Cutting and tourniquets are out!!! Get to a hospital immediately.
and prescription medications -- Consult your physician regarding your outdoor
plans. Get prescriptions for any special or maintenance medications you might
require. Discuss possible adverse reactions to the over-the-counter remedies
suggested above (Anti-inflammatory, Antihistamines, etc.). Ask if your
prescribed medicines have an "outdoors downside." (For example, certain
antibiotics increase sun sensitivity.)
Remember that you don't need
a ton of each medicine. A small amount, stored in a small packet will suffice.
You can get these at a retail home care or medical supply stores or make up
your own using clean and labeled 35mm film canisters for storage.
FIRST-AID KIT SIZE...
your outdoor activity determines how big your first-aid kit can be. Boaters and
RV campers can carry a small pharmacy while hikers and rock climbers must carry
a bare minimum. Look at the example of emergency medical and mountain rescue
personnel. Their first-aid equipment is modular in concept and organization.
Each large kit "breaks" into smaller kits as the need to go farther and lighter
demands. The outdoor recreationist can have a "large" kit for vehicle and camp
and a smaller kit for personal carry.
Keep the "personal" kit with you. The
whole point of building your "own" personal first-aid kit is for it to be
available when you need it -- which is often when you least expect
FIRST AID'S GOLDEN RULES...
1. "First, do
2. Read the first aid manual and then re-read the manual.
3. Have your kit with you at all times.
4. Know what's in it, where it is
and how to use it.
5. Stop bleeding.
6. Prevent shock.
8. Seek or Summon medical help immediately.
article is a collection of information and suggestions garnered from personal
outdoor experience. It is in no way to be construed as the only measure in
reacting to a medical situation, it is intended only as a defensive and
preparatory posture of ideas and suggestions. ALWAYS rely on professional