Author: irock350 on Tue, 2011-05-17 15:57
A First Aid Kit is a basic necessity for anyone serious about preparedness or survival, and its contents are invaluable to those in need of them. During the Y2K hysteria there was a thought that was popular on internet message boards and email inboxes that toilet paper would be the new currency after the collapse, and I have been told that in certain parts of Eastern Europe that after the fall of Communism a roll of dual-ply toilet paper and a pair of Levi Jeans could buy you almost anything.
If such is the case with comfort items like pants and toilet paper than first aid supplies would be worth ten times their weight in gold. Bandages, antiseptics and common medications are simple lightweight lifesaving items that should find their way into any Bug-Out-Bag or personal survival equipment no matter what the cost. To not put too fine a point on it, if you carry nothing else with you but Food, Water and a well-rounded First Aid Kit, you will be more prepared than the vast majority. There are a multitude of first aid kits floating around for every occupation and every conceivable disaster; there are kits that range from the basic bandage in a box to the 25 person earthquake disaster kit. It is easy to let yourself become adrift in a sea of mass marketed single use products aimed at providing you with a minimal amount of supplies for a less than reasonable price. Of the many types of kits available I want to first discuss two in particular before heading into the qualities of a good First Aid Kit; I think that by comparing and dissecting two opposite ends of the spectrum that it will be easier to understand what I mean by a “well rounded” First Aid Kit.
“The IFAK increases individual soldier capabilities to provide Self-Aid/Buddy-Aid and provides interventions for two leading causes of death on the battlefield, severe hemorrhage and inadequate airway. These capabilities increase soldier survivability during dispersed operations…” http://www.usamma.army.mil/assets/docs/IFAK.pdf
Whether you call it the I.F.A.K., the Improved First Aid Kit, or the Individual First Aid Kit, what you would be describing is the basic first aid kit supplied to the military’s fighting men and women on the front lines. These small kits fit into military pouches, represent the first medical aid available to wounded soldiers, and are the newest incarnation in a long line of battlefield first aid kits. The purpose of these small kits is to decrease the preventable deaths of soldiers by blood loss, and other battlefield injuries by providing soldiers the necessary tools to save themselves or their squad mates before more medical help arrives. The contents of the IFAK vary between the branches, but they retain similar items such as tourniquets, rolled gauze, bandages and tape.
The Army IFAK differs from the USMC IFAK in two crucial ways, firstly it only contains items that address significant combat injuries and secondly, it contains the Nasopharynheal Airway or the nasal trumpet. The Nasopharynheal Airway is a device that is inserted into the victim’s nostril and pushed down into the throat preventing the victim’s airway from being blocked by the tongue, or the throat from swelling and blocking the airway. The reason The USMC does not include this device in their version of the IFAK is because it is not a necessary trauma item, and requires some significant medical knowledge to be used correctly. To keep an unconscious victim from choking you can use the Head Tilt/Chin Lift or the jaw thrust method to stabilize the victim’s airway.
- Combat Application Tourniquet
- Elastic Bandage Kit
- Bandage Gauze
- Adhesive Tape
- Nasopharyngeal Airway
- Exam Gloves
The United States Marine Corps Individual First Aid Kit is divided into two separate compartments, the Minor Injury Kit and theTrauma Kit . (Apparently the Army doesn’t acknowledge the need for Band-Aids in the field.)
Minor Injury Kit
- First Aid Ointment
- Adhesive Bandages
- Triangle Bandage (Non-Sterile)
- Combat Reinforcement Tape
- Povidone-Iodine Topical Solution
- Burn Dressing “Water Jel”
- Water Purification Tablets Trauma Kit Component
- Quickclot Packet
- Tourni-Kwik Self Application Tourniquet
- “H” Compression Bandage
- Compressed Gauze
Even though the U.S.M.C. I.F.A.K. has additional minor first aid items, it is still far from being a complete kit. The U.S.M.C. I.F.A.K. is more suited for personal and wilderness survival than the Army version due to items like the water purification tablets and the duct tape provided in the Minor Injury Kit; but, if you were to take this kit into the wilderness with you, you would more than likely find yourself wishing for additional items, or simply more of a particular item. These kits are small and lightweight, usually weighing about 1 pound, and are worn where they can be easily accessed by both the solider and anyone who is coming to his or her aid. These kits are intended to stabilize a solider until a medic arrives to prepare the soldier to be evacuated from the battlefield, not provide for short term care or to provide care for injuries not likely seen on a battlefield. Aside from providing immediate care for the wounded these military style kits alleviate stress on battlefield medics by disseminating the most common medical supplies among soldiers so that the medics only have to carry the specialized tools they need to save lives. There is an intermediate step between a medic and the regular soldiers known as the Combat Life Saver; these soldiers carry additional lifesaving equipment aside from their IFAK and are an additional stopgap intended to provide assistance before the arrival of a medic. However, their first goal is complete their assigned mission and only administer first aid when the mission allows for it.
The next kit on my list is the loathsome and detestable “Basic First Aid Kit”. These kits range from $1 and can skyrocket from there. These types of kits lack of standards for a “basic” kit and the kits that are widely available at every corner drug store and market are filled with the same generic materials that barely provide aide to a single paper cut, much less something more severe. The Red Cross recommends on its website that all first aid kits for a family of four include the following:
- 2 absorbent compress dressings (5 x 9 inches)
- 25 adhesive bandages (assorted sizes)
- 1 adhesive cloth tape (10 yards x 1 inch)
- 5 antibiotic ointment packets (approximately 1 gram)
- 5 antiseptic wipe packets
- 2 packets of aspirin (81 mg each)
- 1 blanket (space blanket)
- 1 breathing barrier (with one-way valve)
- 1 instant cold compress
- 2 pair of non-latex gloves (size: large)
- 2 hydrocortisone ointment packets (approximately 1 gram each)
- 1 roller bandage (3 inches wide)
- 1 roller bandage (4 inches wide)
- 5 sterile gauze pads (3 x 3 inches)
- 5 sterile gauze pads (4 x 4 inches)
- Oral thermometer (non-mercury/non-glass)
- 2 triangular bandages
- First aid instruction booklet
Every first aid kit should include the items in this list because it contains everything you would need to treat basic minor and major injuries that one may expect to encounter on a normal day, a family camping trip, or your daughters soccer game. A kit that contains these items can take your temperature, stabilize a broken arm, clean and treat minor cuts and gashes, and provide minor pain and allergic relief through common over the counter drugs. What is included in this potential kit that I think is useful that neither of the military kits provide is the CPR mask(breathing barrier with one way valve). These masks save the life of the victim and provide an extra measure of safety for the life saver. Although you can perform CPR without using a special mask, the one way valve prevents fluids or other foreign objects that may be obstructing the victim’s airway fluids from being transferred into the mouth of the person attempting to resuscitate the victim. The problem I personally have with these kits are the lack of supplies; for $10 or $15 they provide you with just enough supplies to treat basic injuries only a handful of times before you have to spend another $10 or $15 restocking the kit with more bandages and antiseptic wipes. For the same $15 you can order the items individually and have enough to stock 10 kits. Most kits that are available are simply made up of adhesive bandages and over the counter medicines with a pair of tweezers, a couple of latex gloves and a first-aid booklet and that simply will not cut it.
The military kits and the bandage in a box kits are the most common gear that are referred as two of the “basic” first aid kits by potential survivors on internet message boards. While these two types of kits were designed to serve two very different purposes, the idea behind them is same; to provide first aid in an emergency until help arrives. But what if help doesn’t arrive, or help is incapable of coming to your rescue? What if you fall down a mountain path and impale your leg on a branch? If you have either the Red Cross or the Military style kits, you will find that neither kit has all of the items you would need to patch yourself up so you can make your way back to the path and find help. The USMC kit does the best job at providing the most amount of aid for this scenario. You could use the tourniquet to stop the blood flow to the impaled limb, and then add the quick clot packets to stop the blood from coming from the two holes. The
primed compressed gauze in combination with the H Bandage would be wrapped around the limb to control and stop the bleeding, and if you found two straight sticks you could use them and the combat duct tape to create a splint.
Situation seemingly handled, your leg is bandaged up, and the stick didn’t pierce an artery so now the only thing that is left would be to manage and irrigate the wound so it won’t become infected; however, you have used up all the major supplies stopping yourself from bleeding out, and you no longer have any bandages left to re-wrap and maintain the injury, much less the medication to keep it sterile and infection free. This improbable scenario demonstrates the ineffectiveness of both of these types of systems individually. However, if you combined the two types of kits and added in some other materials you would have a kit that could treat and maintain almost any injury and could be reused to treat other injuries without having to re-stock every item in the whole kit.
Like all survival and preparedness projects, building your own personal First-Aid Kit requires planning and forethought so that you don’t find yourself wanting for something you can’t scavenge or find laying around the field. Being prepared and carrying all of the items you need with you will save you time and could possibly save your life or the life of someone else. Before you start pulling pre-assembled kits from online resources or off the shelves of your local supermarket or military surplus store it would be wise to sit down and contemplate all of the potential accidents and injuries that could occur while you are out in the field. The most common injuries are the result of carelessness and everyday clumsiness and unfortunately Band-Aid doesn’t make an adhesive bandage for stupidity, so you need to be aware of your surroundings and the people you are with. Most First-Aid kits are designed to handle injuries resulting from trip/fall accidents, sprained elbows or shoulders and the common cold, while military kits are designed to handle gunshot wounds and lacerations. If you were to combine, say, the USMC IFAK with a kit containing all of the materials on the Red Cross list you could effectively handle the majority of injuries anyone is likely to encounter both major and minor. One of these types of kits creates what I call a “Well Rounded First-Kit” but there are other items available that can be added to your kit that are cost effective and add to the longevity and usefulness of your kit. Some of these items can pull double or triple duty as survival items and then can be reused for first aid. Some items will probably never be used because they provide aid to a very specific injury, but if you are in an area where that injury or disease is likely to occur you would be remiss if you didn’t have it with you. Creating your own personal kit is more about having the knowledge about your surroundings and the foresight to prepare for it than the items you pack into your kit. When you begin to assemble your personal First-Aid Kit it helps to organize your supplies into FOUR Categories:
- Single Use First Aid Items
- Medical Tools,
- First Aid Items that aren’t First Aid Items
You can further subdivide these four general categories into smaller more specific categories, but everything in your First Aid Kit should fall into one of these categories. Below I have listed some of the items that may fit into one or two of the four main categories, but their categorization isn’t important, it is merely a useful tool for organization and to help you to determine if an item can be used for first aid or not.
Single Use First Aid items are exactly what they sound like. These are the items that are important to have in your kit, but are only good for one use. These items are the individually wrapped sterile items that make up the bulk of any kit. To keep your kit as useful as possible for as long as possible, duplicates of many of these items is necessary. Most of the items that are listed under this category are self-explanatory, but a few items require more detail than an item name. I have listed the four types of bandages I use, but not the quantities. As a general rule, I always keep as many bandages in my kit as I do Alcohol wipes and Antibiotic Ointment packs. Adhesive Bandages make up the bulk of most store bought first aid kits and will be some of the most used items in your kit. There are a variety of different types of adhesive bandages available in different sizes, materials and configurations, but ultimately you will have to make the decision for yourself. Personally I only use four types of adhesive bandages, and those are:
- 1″ Adhesive Bandages
- Knuckle Bandages
- Finger Bandages
- Butterfly Bandages I use these because they are the best at covering small wounds in inconvenient places like above the eyebrow or around my knuckles. There are many, many types of adhesive bandages and although I have limited myself to carrying these four types, you should find out what works best for you.
- Sterile Alcohol Pads and Antibiotic Cream should be applied to every minor and moderate cut and abrasion. These items speed up healing time and most importantly keep the cuts clean and sterile which will help to prevent infection.
- First-Aid Ointments
- Antibiotic Cream
- Hydro cortisone Cream
- Burn Cream
- Sun Screen
- Lip Balm
- Sterile Gauze Pads
- Sterile Gauze Roll
- Elastic Bandage
- Ace Bandages
- Compression Bandage
- Exam Gloves
- Cold/Heat Pack
- Quick Clot has been discussed on the website before. Basically it creates an exothermic reaction to burn the wound closed. Using a chemical burn to close the wound has it’s pro’s and con’s, but it is better than the old western movie alternative of pulling apart a bullet and dumping the black powder in the wound and igniting it to burn it closed.
Over The Counter Medicines may not be as effective as the under the counter kind, but something is better than nothing. Keep them in small pill bottles and stash them away in your kit. Some first aid kits come with some of the more common medications already, but it never hurts to add your own or add more of the same.
Antihistamines are used to treat rash, hives, watery eyes, runny nose, itching, and sneezing due to allergies or the common cold. Antihistamines are often used with Hydrocortisone creams to treat bug bites and stings caused by venomous insects like ants, bees or wasps. Antihistamines work by blocking the histamine receptors of cells, preventing the allergen from binding to cells and stopping them from swelling and leaking fluid.
Aspirin is an NSAID (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) used to treat headaches, body aches and pains, and to reduce inflammation, and to help treat victims of heart attacks. However, it can be harmful to the upper digestive tract and can cause stomach aches, heartburn, and can cause chronic pain in the upper abdomen. It is not recommended for use on hemophiliacs because it is an anticoagulant and could cause excessive bleeding.
Ibuprofen is another NSAID and is chemically similar to regular aspirin and in lower doses, ibuprofen seems to irritate the esophagus and stomach lining less than its close cousins, aspirin and naproxen. If you have ulcers or acid reflux disease, ibuprofen may be the best product for pain clearly resulting from inflammation (arthritis, sprains, sunburns, etc.)
Acetaminophen lowers fevers and soothes headaches effectively, but it is NOT an anti-inflammatory substance and because of this it is not recommended for treating arthritis or sprains and is not used on to treat heart attack victims. Certain people are allergic to NSAID’s like Aspirin, Ibuprofren, and Naproxen and acetaminophen may be used to treat some of the symptoms that would normally be treated by those medications. Acetaminophen has a milder effect on the upper digestive tract than other NSAID pain relievers. It is less irritating to the lining of the stomach, making it the best headache treatment for people with acid reflux disease, ulcers, and the like. Acetaminophen is also safer for hemophiliacs and children than aspirin.
- Cold and Flu Medicines
Personal Medicines are medications that are prescribed to you for one reason or another that you would be in big trouble if you forgot. These could be your heart pills, pain meds, Asthma Inhaler, or Epipen. Other Medicines are medicines that you may be able to pick up along the way such as pain meds, I.V.’s and antibiotics. These are good to have on hand, especially the antibiotics, however most of these are controlled substances and can cause serious health risks if you do not know the proper dosage or allergic reactions, so add them at your own risk.
A medical tool’s foremost purpose should be the application of medical aid, and as such these tools should be selected with that purpose in mind; not that they could also multitask as a survival item. Most of the items on this list can be used for a variety of purposes, however the tools you keep in your First Aid Kit should be sterile at all times, or easily made so. You could grab a pair of needle nose pliers from your tool box and they would perform aptly as a make shift pair of forceps, or you can buy a hobby knife instead of a medical grade scalpel and you would hardly notice the difference, but the main concern with these items is sterilization. Medical tools are all stainless steel and have few textures, edges, or checkered grips because it is easier for bacteria and germs to hide in these areas and they are much harder to clean. If you have to use these tools on multiple people and then on yourself you don’t want there to be the possibility of transferring any potentially harmful or infectious diseases between the people you are trying to help or to yourself.
- Pen Light
- Cotton Swabs
- Isopropyl Alcohol
- Suture Kit , while some supplies in most suture kits will be redundant with the basic first aid kits, it is the needles and threads that are most important and for less than $20.00 USD you can get everything you need to stitch yourself back together, or someone else.
- Tongue Depressors (Popsicle Sticks) small enough to fit into any size kit can be used to create a finger splint.
- Iodine has a variety of uses ranging from an antiseptic to a cure for a throat ache, although its most common survival uses include antiseptic and as a water purifier.
- Sam Splints, or flexible aluminum come in a variety of sizes, are cheap and roll-up for easy storage.
- CPR Mask
- Tampons are extremely useful for gunshot wounds, bloody noses, and of course their intended use. Tampons can also be broken apart and used with a roll of gauze to form an absorbent pad.
- Bleach like iodine has a variety of survival and medical uses and a small bottle should be included with any B.O.B or medical kit. Bleach can be used to purify water, clean surfaces, cure sore throats, kill foot fungus, and it can also kill poison ivy. Warning Bleach is a powerful oxidizer and can cause serious health problems if ingested undiluted. To purify water mix 1 milliliter of Bleach to 1 gallon of water. To use as a sanitizer mix 5 milliliters of bleach to one gallon of water. For a sore throat mix 1 drop of bleach per 8 ounces of water and Gargle, do not swallow and immediately rinse out mouth with water.
- Potassium Permanganate & Glycerin are awesome ingredients to have in a survivalists med kits as individual items or used together to create a fire without using matches. Warning: Potassium permanganate is a highly caustic chemical, a strong oxidizer, and can be very harmful to tissues. It is also a poison. Its use for self-medication is safe only in liquid form with solutions not to exceed 0.04 percent of potassium permanganate. Weak dilutions are safe for use in topical and external applications to the skin only.
- Sewing Needles are extremely useful and are helpful in a variety of survival and medical situations. You can lance boils with them, stitch up a wound or they can be shaped into a fishing hook if necessary. If you want to use a sewing needle primarily for stitching wounds the best option is to use a curved needle or slightly bend a straight needle in a gentle arch to making stitching the wound closed easier.
- Duct Tape A word on Duct Tape, there are lots of stories about persons injured in the woods or elsewhere who have used just duct tape to stop the flow of blood to a wound and bandage it till they could get better medical attention. It has saved lives in this regard and honestly, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have dang near an entire roll in your kit since it is Duct Tape. It has too many uses not to be in either multiple places in your kit or a separate amount simply for medical purposes.
- Fishing Line can be used as suture thread to close a severe gash. However if you do use nylon fishing line, unlike dissolving suture thread you will have to clip and remove the fishing before the wound closes around it.
- Super Glue can be used to close a wound without stitches or bandages; however, I am always hesitant to advocate that super glue be used in this manner. Super glue can be toxic, and when it comes into contact with skin it creates an exothermic reaction releasing a lot of heat. If you have to use it, use it sparingly and on small gashes. Not all of the items on this list are necessary equipment for every kit or for any kit in particular; the items listed here are just a reference point for you to add or subtract any items as you feel necessary. If you had a medical kit that had everything on this list it wouldn’t be as much of a first aid kit as it would be a Bug-Out-Bag, and for some people that would be O.K. but other people may want a more stripped down kit with just the essentials, and that is O.K. as well. The key to having a usable kit is being able to use everything in it. If you do not know have to stitch a wound a closed, then instead of packing a suture kit, you should pack a bottle of superglue and butterfly bandages. Being prepared is more than just buying supplies and stashing them in a corner, to be truly prepared you must think of every conceivable problem that may arise and also a solution for that problem. The same can be said for first aid kits, it is about knowing what kinds of accidents may happen and taking the necessary steps to either prevent the accident from happening or be able to treat the wounds after the fact.
• http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/army/fm4_25x11.pdf • www.lejeune.usmc.mil/fmtb/FMSO%20book/block%201/ifak.doc •http://www.ready.gov/america/getakit/firstaidkit.html • http://www.redcross.org/www-files/Documents/pdf/Preparedness/checklists/… • http://www.dshs.wa.gov/pdf/ca/CPR.pdf These links provide great information on First Aid from CPR to gunshot wounds. I suggest downloading the first two and printing them for your B.O.B as well as the last link on CPR.