Seeing the plaster on her leg in the picture take us nicely onto my post subject for today (well that's my excuse anyway to feature that picture in this post) - First Aid in the home. Coming from a family full of pharmacists I know that it really is essential to have some sort of a medicine/first aid case or container in a home, but it is so easy not to think of nasty things that can happen at home. I have to confess that as I write this we don't have a properly set up First Aid Kit at home... so this is something I'll be sorting out this weekend.
Health and safety is an important part of home keeping, so choose a place for your first aid kit carefully. It should definitely NOT be within reach of children - at all! A good place for instance is in the top of kitchen cupboard. Choose a space where you can also keep any other medication, vitamins and things such as matches. Then designate that cupboard as being out of bounds for kids and make sure everyone understands this. Even if you don't have kids, do keep this in mind if you have visiting friends or family with kids.
There are lots of ready assembled first aid kits available, but you could just as easily put your own one together. Go for compact, and make it portable so that you can take it in your car or outside if you ever need to. But even if you do opt for a ready assembled kit, make sure it includes everything on the list below and adapt it to your family's needs. So what do you need in a First aid kit for the home? Here are some considerations, a list of the basics as well as some natural remedies to add to your kit.
First check the specific needs of your household:
- If anyone in your family has allergies, asthma or any other specific health conditions make sure to discuss with your doctor or pharmacist about what medication you need at hand in case of an emergency and add them to your kit.
- If you have children under 12, make sure you include medications that are suitable for use on them. An idea is to buy coloured stickers from a stationary shop, and label all medication not suitable for children or babies with a red sticker but make sure everyone in your household understands this system. Or colour code medications this way specifically for different family members.
- Buy an up to date First Aid Manual to keep near your First Aid kit. If you panic and you don't know how to handle a situation, at least you can look it up to see what the best approach is
The Basics of a first aid kit should include:
- Adhesive dressings - Used for minor cuts and grazes and can be bought in boxes of various shape, size and types. These include waterproof, fabric, hypo-allergenic, antiseptic and for children there are character based sticking plasters. Keep at least one box in the first aid kit and another in a medicine cabinet as they are used frequently.
- Bandages - For protection of wound dressings. Bandages come in various sizes and types, the most common being crepe or gauze. Keep at least three of each sort in a first aid kit, these being triangular bandages (which are also useful in making slings) and roll bandages (which are rolled around dressings to provide support to injuries). Other variants include TubiGrip, which is a tubed bandage designed to support an injury.
- Cling film - Apply to serious burns liberally to keep the wound away from open air. This assists in pain relief and keeps burns from becoming infected. Seek immediate professional help after a serious burn has occurred.
- Cotton balls/wool - Wet with water, useful for cleaning wounds. Do not apply cotton wool directly to wounds as the fibre will become stuck.
- Cotton buds - Useful in cleaning wounds or removing obvious foreign bodies.
- Slings - A triangular piece of fabric used to support affected limb injuries. Two or more are needed.
- Sterile dressings - Non-adherent 'ouchless' dressings (some come with antiseptic added), gauze (light fabric squares used as dressings) and swabs (used to clean wounds). Keep lots of these.
- Tampons - Useful for stemming blood-flow from puncture wounds (animal bites) and if cut in half are extremely effective for relieving epistaxis (nosebleed ). .. if not a bit embarrassing.
- Adhesive tape - Micropore, Transpore or Elastoplast. A roll of each type is recommended as it used to hold dressings in place, but has many other uses.
- Medi-Prep Wipes - Contained in small sachets and are useful to assist in the sterilisation of wound areas or with safety pins/tweezers for extraction of foreign objects.
- Disposable gloves - For the first aider's use only. Keeps your hands clean and prevents cross-infection.
- Frozen gel pack - Invaluable in reducing swelling/bruising. Place the cold pack in a cloth towel and apply to the injury. Frozen peas are also excellent for this purpose, as the packet will mould to the body. While this item is not actually kept in your first aid kit - it is a necessity2.
- Measuring cup/spoon - For the measuring of medication given to children.
- Scissors - For cutting anything - clothing, strips of gauze, dressings, tape.
- Safety pins - Vital in pinning slings, but can also be used to remove foreign bodies if sterilised3.
- Splints - Vital in keeping potentially broken digits or limbs in place. Small finger-splints and applicators are available for finger injuries4.
- Thermometer - For measuring body temperature. Various thermometers are available, the timpanic being most accurate. This is placed in the ear, but can be an expensive addition to a first aid kit. The oral digital thermometer is best. Reasonably-priced, it can be placed under the tongue or arm for a approximate temperature reading. Forehead strip thermometers are also available, but these are notoriously inaccurate.
- Tweezers - For the removal of obvious foreign bodies (splinters, bee-stings, etc).
Do not combine medicines and First Aid supplies. They can live in the same cupboard, but have a box of remedies seperate to your First Aid box. You really do not want to be sorting between your lozengers and cough medicines in an emergency. Important - when administering medication, read all labels, check use-by-dates and consult your first aid manual or a trained first aider/health professional.
- Analgesic tablets or capsules - Paracetamol, Ibuprofen or Aspirin 5. For children, include some sachets of Calpol or other paracetamol-based suspensions. These are invaluable in reducing pain and fevers. Ensure you have some soluble analgesics too, as these are helpful for reducing the pain of throat infections like tonsillitis.
- Antihistamine cream - For insect bites and stings. Helps reduce the swelling and pain after being stung by a bee or wasp.
- Antihistamine tablets - To help reduce the effects of allergic reactions.
- Antiseptic solution - For instance TCP/Betadine. Helps to clean a wound of bacteria. Useful if the injury has occurred on something like glass or metal, which could lead to Tetanus.
- Calamine Lotion - For the relief of itch from sunburn or rash from insects/plants.
- Petroleum Jelly - Such as vaseline (alternatively, a water-based lubricant like KY Jelly). Assists in the removal of rings and so forth from swollen digits and has a variety of other uses6.
Natural First Aid
Here are some natural remedies to consider for your first aid kit or medicine cabinet All of the remedies are available at any well-stocked health-food store and by mail-order. Be sure to buy pure essential oils, not fragrance oils.
- Aloe vera gel: Cooling and healing, aloe vera (Aloe vera) soothes the inflammation of sunburn and common kitchen scalds and burns.
- Arnica gel or cream: Arnica (Arnica montana) flowers have anti-inflammatory and circulation-stimulating properties; the gel or cream is excellent for sore muscles, sprains, strains and bruises. Do not apply arnica to broken skin.
- Calendula-comfrey salve: The bright yellow-orange blossoms of calendula (Calendula officinalis) have astringent, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory and wound-healing properties. Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) contains allantoin, a compound that stimulates the growth of new tissue and helps heal wounds.
- Chamomile tea bags: With its delicious distinctive flavor, chamomile (Matricaria recutita) makes a tasty tea. Gentle enough for children, chamomile has mild sedative, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. It promotes relaxation, relieves indigestion and, when applied topically, soothes skin irritations.
- Citronella-based insect repellant: Most herbal repellants contain citronella, a pungent citrus-scented essential oil distilled from an aromatic grass that grows in southern Asia. Herbal insect repellants work well, as long as they’re applied liberally and frequently (as often as every two hours).
- Echinacea liquid extract: Rich in immune-stimulating chemicals, echinacea (Echinacea spp.) can be used for any type of infection. Liquid extracts are the most versatile because they can be used both internally and externally.
- Elderberry capsules or liquid extract: Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) is essential for stopping a cold or flu from ruining your vacation. The berries contain compounds that prevent cold and flu viruses from invading and infecting cells. If you’re flying or otherwise potentially exposed to viruses, taking elderberry is a good preventive. If you do come down with a cold or flu, taking elderberry can hasten your recovery time.
- Eucalyptus essential oil: A potent antibiotic and antiviral, eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) is excellent for treating colds, flus and sinus infections when used as a steam inhalation. Dilute with oil or witch hazel extract before applying to the skin, and do not take internally. Ginger capsules, tea bags and crystallized ginger: The antispasmodic and gas-relieving properties of ginger (Zingiber officinale) soothe digestive upsets. Ginger also has been proven to relieve motion sickness better than Dramamine, the conventional drug treatment.
Another important part of a First Aid Kit, is keeping it topped up. When you use something, put that item on your next shopping list. Keep a list of items in your kit, and when you do your yearly spring clean, check your first aid kit for out of date medications and things that need replacing.
Also, if you have children or intend to have children, why not take a First Aid course. There are lots of courses available all over so don't out it off. Hopefully you will never need it, but it will give you confidence to act in a situation where you need to think quickly. While we are on the safety of your household, do take the time to write down emergency numbers and keep them by the phone or on the fridge.
If you have pets, inform yourself about the methods of first aid that can help save you pet. Choking is a very real danger, so take a minute to read up about the Heimlich manoeuvre for pets here or search online specifically about your type of pet. Most vet's have an emergency number that you can call at any time of day - add that to your list of emergency numbers to keep near the phone.Here are some great First Aid packs, kits and books that I've found online.
From left to rightTop: A very organised First Aid Kits devided by symptom with instructions about what to do, it's called Intelligent First Aid; An up-to date First Aid Manual by the St Johns Ambulance; A First Aid Kit for Pets
That's it for my post about First Aid in the home. I really intend to take this post of mine to heart and set up a well organised First Aid Kit in our home. I hope you will do the same, or at least check that you have everything you need. You cannot put a price on the safety of you and your family.