Have you experienced a medical emergency? Were you prepared? It's important to have a complete and up-to-date first-aid kit in our home, office, car, boat...wherever we spend our time. Ready-made first aid kits are easily available. However, by preparing our own we not only save money but also can tailor it to suit our own particular needs. Consider what unique types of medical problems you are likely to face. Take into account whether you will be the one using the kit, or whether it's intended for others who have different levels of skills and experience. Decide whether it is intended to stay in one place - a home, or office - or will travel with you in your car or suitcase. Determine how much space you will have, and a location where it will be easily accessible. First-aid kits have a bad habit of ending up forgotten in a cupboard, in the garage, or anywhere except where you need them. Always create more than one. For some of us, the most important one is in our car - our car is likely to be wherever we are. Assemble a list of injuries or problems. Accidents and illnesses are, by their very nature, unpredictable, but consider dehydration, sunburns, cuts and scrapes, bruises, motion sickness, stings and bites, chapped and dried skin, swimmer's ear, sprains and strains, burns, infections, food and water poisoning, allergic reactions (food, bees...), diarrhea, constipation, broken bones, hypothermia, hyperthermia and shock. There is no one set of ideal contents for everybody. When assembling yours, consider: *No first aid kit is complete without a collection of bandages. Include several sizes of adhesive bandages, elastic bandages (such as ACE), butterfly bandages to close a wound, sterile gauze pads, medical adhesive paper and cloth tape, and bandage scissors. One newer product is the liquid bandage. It can provide great protection for minor cuts, scrapes, and blisters *Also a top priority will be pain medications such as aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), and ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil). *If you are susceptible to motion sickness (car, air, or boat), or tend to spend time on the water, then include Dramamine, Bonine, or Marazine - all available over-the-counter. A scopolamine patch is available by prescription. The patch is placed on the skin behind the ear and lasts for three days. *Don't forget treatment for the skin, such as a hydrocortisone cream for inflammation, topical antibiotic cream for cuts or infections, antiseptic hand cleanser, hydrogen peroxide or alcohol wipes to cleanse wounds, and even a simple moisturizing lotion for dry skin. Throw in a tube of sunscreen! *I recommend that patients with chronic recurring infections carry one round of antibiotics when traveling - but only with their doctor's blessing (and prescription). Antibiotics are notoriously overused and misused, and (don't take this personally!) I do not support routinely carrying spare antibiotics to take when you aren't feeling well, at your own discretion. *Include at least one blanket, a thermometer, tweezers, nail clippers, and a first aid instruction booklet (try the Red Cross's "Emergency First Aid Guide," available for about $3.25). *Don't forget an emergency supply of your own personal meds, especially if this first-aid kit is for travel. Consider carrying a copy of your medical records; this can be especially useful if you need to see a doctor while out of town or out of the country. The most important accessory to your first aid kit is something that practically every one of us always has handy: a cellphone. Making a phone call in an emergency may be the most important thing you do. You may be surprised to learn that federal law mandates that any old (charged) cellphone, even if it is not on a current contract with a service provider, will still dial 911! You might want to include an old cellphone in your first aid kit, making a habit of charging it on a regular basis. Most of the contents of our first aid kits will lose their effectiveness over time. It's critical that we review it once a year and update it. Think of a first aid kit as insurance - may we never need it! Dr. Alan Frischer is former chief of staff and former chief of medicine at Downey Regional Medical Center. Write to him in care of this newspaper at 8301 E. Florence Ave., Suite 100, Downey, CA 90240.
********** Published: Dec. 26, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 37