Creating your own First Aid Kit
A first aid kit is a must-have for every household. Injuries, both minor and major, can arise at any time. Being ready for some of the surprises that life can throw your way is essential, especially if you have children or elderly living in your household.
First aid kits can come in many shapes and sizes. For most of us, purchasing ready-made first aid kits is the easiest way to obtain a first aid kit for your home, but more commonly we are seeing people constructing and tailoring their own first aid supplies to suit their needs and for certain occasions such as hiking, camping or boating.
Have you ever wondered what some of the items in your store bought first aid kit actually do?
We explore some of the items that you can include in your DIY first aid kit and what they are used for to help you tailor the perfect kit for your household!
As the global pandemic has demonstrated to us, germs and bacteria can spread like wildfire if we don’t take precautions to prevent it. This is especially important when we are treating someone’s wound or illness, as we often must get into close proximity to do so.
- Gloves – not only do they prevent the germs on your hands from spreading to the person you are treating, they can prevent bodily fluids and bacteria from them spreading to you.
- Hand Sanitiser – when hand washing is not available, a hand sanitiser with over 70% alcohol can be used.
- Chlorhexidine and Saline ampules – these are both great for cleansing wounds, but also have varied uses. Chlorhexidine is a hospital grade cleanser and is often used to cleanse and prepare the skin before surgery. Chlorhexidine is best for cleaning wounds prior to dressing and works to prevent the growth of bacteria on the skin.
Saline is a glorified name for sterile salt water. Saline is a multi-purpose wonder that is not only used for cleaning a wound before dressing, but can be used to wash irritants, flecks of debris, dust or bugs from the eyes.
Both Chlorhexidine and Saline can be safely used to clean a burn before applying a burn gel or dressing.
- Iodine liquid or swabs – Iodine is an antimicrobial antiseptic that can be used to cleanse grazes, small wounds and mild burns. It is advised not to use iodine in deep cuts, puncture wounds, animal bites or on moderate to severe burns. Iodine also won’t cause the dreaded sting when cleaning your wound. Remember to always dilute liquid iodine if it isn’t available in a premixed solution or swab.
- Alcohol swabs – classic alcohol swabs are a great cleansing agent that help to kill bacteria on the surface level of the skin. They are commonly used to cleanse the skin prior to injections and are great to wipe down medical equipment like bandage scissors before use. Alcohol swabs should only be used to clean around the wound and never applied directly to the wound, as it can delay or prevent healing. The use of alcohol directly applied to burns should also be avoided.
What are all these bandages for?
- Plasters – these are for small cuts and scrapes only, and should never be used on large wounds, infections or burns. Try adding in a few colourful or branded plasters to keep the kids distracted when treating their boo-boo’s.
- Gauze swabs and wound dressings – These can be used as an absorbent dressing, for cleaning around the outside of a wound and for drying around a wound after washing. Some wound dressings come with an adhesive film over the top of the wound pad, otherwise you can use a conforming bandage, medical adhesive tape or a waterproof clear adhesive film to hold them in place. Wound dressings often come in a non-stick option and keeping a few different sizes of these can be very useful!
- Dressing pack – When you need to dress a wound in a hurry, there’s no need to collect the individual components if you have a basic dressing pack on hand. Save time with these handy all in one packs that are ready to use. It’s convenient, easy to use and requires no preparation time.
- Conforming bandage – These bandages work by moulding to the area in which it is applied, this helps the bandage stay in place providing extra security and are very effective for holding dressings in place. They can come in different thicknesses.
- Combine dressing – Combine dressings are used to absorb fluids and blood from larger wounds and can be held in place by a conforming bandage.
- Crepe bandage – Crepe bandages are lightweight multi-use bandages that can be effective in treating a multitude of injuries. It can be used to provide warmth, stability and support, to immobilise and compress injured joints, and are used to treat sprains and minor fractures.
- Cohesive bandage – These self-sticking bandages are great when a bandage clip is unavailable.
- Triangular bandage – these are great for injuries of the arms and shoulders that require a sling.
- Burn dressing – Burn dressings come in many different shapes and sizes for all types and severities of burns. Burn dressings are specifically designed to keep a burn moist, to relieve pain and to keep the burn wound cool and are quite often impregnated with gel forming agents on the inside layer underneath a flexible adhesive layer. Commonly used dressings for mild to moderate burn wounds are hydrocolloid dressings, alginate dressings and paraffin dressings. A moderate to severe burn should always be seen to by a medical professional as soon as possible.
- Steri strips – these crafty and super sticky strips come in many sizes and are a great back up or alternative to stitches when a wound isn’t too deep or severe. They’re are perfect for closing a medium to deep cut and can temporarily suffice if stitches may be required, but much like stitches, these must be carefully applied to ensure that the wound closes and heals in the correct place.
First Aid Kit Tools for the trade
- Bandage scissors – the name says it all – these scissors are great for none other than cutting, you guessed it, bandages!
- Bandage clips – these little sharp-teeth clips are an essential for sticking a bandage in place, most bandages will come with these in the packet, but always have a few spares on hand
- Tweezers – great for getting rid of those pesky splinters and handy for removing sterile wound dressings and gauze out of the packet.
- Emergency thermal blanket – These are a great inclusion to a first aid kit that has been tailored for outdoor adventure. These super compact sand lightweight silver blankets are lifesavers in situations when someone is in shock from injury or is exposed to cold temperatures or rain. We would recommend adding one of these into your first aid kit, if anything, it can substitute for warmth when you forgot to pack that extra blanket!
- Adhesive surgical/medical tape – this stuff can come in handy for many things, especially to tape down and hold in place wound dressings and to temporarily tape sprained fingers and toes together. The most universal and commonly used adhesive tape is Micropore.
Creams and Ointments for First Aid Kits
- Bite gel – perfect for those pesky bug bites that are inescapable in the Australian climate! These take the sting and itch out of your bite and often contain aluminium.
- Burn cream, gel or ointment – burn gel is a great alternative when there is no running water to keep your burn cool. It also helps keep your burn moist to stop it from drying out.
- Anti-inflammatory gel – these gels can help ease pain and reduce inflammation on areas of swelling that have no broken skin. As these gels are absorbed into the bloodstream, it is always essential to check with the person that you are treating if they take any other anti-inflammatory or blood thinning medications. If so, it is best to wait until you can seek professional medical advice before use.
Should I include medication in my first aid kt?
Traditionally in store bought first aid kits, you will not find any medication, but when assembling your own personal first aid kit, it’s perfectly fine for you to include your own medication.
Although items such as paracetamol, ibuprofen, aspirin and phenylephrine are commonly used in Australia, it’s critical that you only take these medicines for yourself and exercise caution when considering giving this medication to others, especially if you are unaware of their medical history.
Even simple over the counter medications can have serious health impacts on those with a pre-existing health condition or those taking other medications.
If you have a chronic illness, you can include items such as an asthma inhaler, an epipen, insulin or any tablets that you take on a regular basis.
It is also fine to have some general medicines in your household first aid kit for pain relief, cold and flu or stomach upsets.
Before you go…
Remember to regularly keep an eye on expiry dates for all of the items in your first aid kit – yes, bandages and wound dressings can expire! Never use anything that is out of date, what was once ‘sterile’ may not be anymore and this can only increase your chance of infection.
We hope this guide has helped you understand some of the uses for the many items that you find in a first aid kit. The contents of your home-made kit will depend on whether you’re preparing a kit for a certain occasion such as camping or hiking or whether you have a baby, child or elderly in your family. Now you know the ins and outs of what you can include in your personal or household first aid kit, go on and assemble your own!
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