The thing about emergencies is that you don’t know when and where they’ll happen. You could be injured anytime, or continue going about your day as normal, completely unscathed. It’s a toss up—you just never know.
That’s why it’s best to always be prepared. Expect the unexpected, and prepare for the worst. In the field, being prepared can be the difference between life and death—literally.
Here are my top 10 first aid items you should always have, if not on you, somewhere easily accessible.
EMTs carry trauma shears.
At the very least carry a pocketknife with you. Good for cutting away at obstructions, fashioning bandages and no doubt a knife always comes handy. Keep one in your first aid kit, too.
Obviously, you don’t know where or when an accident will happen. Good luck dressing a wound when it’s pitch black outside. A flashlight will help, plus it comes handy in all kinds of emergencies.
Sometimes you have to appreciate the little things in life. Like picking out debris, shards of glass, thorns, wood, etc. I recommend a pocket multi-tool for a two-in-one; it should come with both a knife and tweezers, among other useful tools.
Have something like Benadryl, Claritin, or another antihistamine on hand to reduce swelling and ease allergy symptoms. This is for mild reactions only. Anyone experiencing anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction) needs professional help right away. If you have an EpiPen on hand, use that, otherwise get the person to a hospital immediately.
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or Ibuprofen (Advil) will work for mild pains and fever. While these medicines aren’t a cure for the underlying issue, keeping a high fever at bay can buy the time needed to find medical help or let the body recover.
Unless you’re a field medic, you’re not going to be lugging rolls of gauze everywhere. However, you’ll need sterile adhesive bandages in a variety of sizes, butterfly bandages and strips (to hold the edges of a cut together), sterile gauze pads (for controlling bleeding) and hypoallergenic tape for holding everything together.
You don’t want to make any wound worse by letting bacteria creep in. Keep the wound sterile and prevent infection with an antiseptic solution. They come in wipe, spray, or liquid form. Common antiseptics include hydrogen peroxide (which you can probably find at your local grocery store), povidone-iodine and chlorhexidine.
As always: protect yourself before helping others. A mask will help shield you from germs and bodily fluids. Plus, in emergencies, it can serve as a breathing tool, helping to filter out smoke, dust or debris.
The same principle applies here. A pair of even the cheapest disposable gloves will help protect you from bodily fluids and other things you really don’t want to be touching.
First aid handbook.
You may not know what to do in all situations—but your first aid handbook will. Sometimes the thing you need to calm you down in an emergency is just simple instructions. In fact, The National Transportation Safety Board found that most airplane crash victims died with their seat belts still buckled. Why? Frozen in panic, they waited to hear instructions from the aircrew and not hearing any, they sat right through the disaster. Don’t let fear freeze you. Know that your handbook can help guide you through an emergency. This is one item it doesn’t hurt to have duplicates of. Keep one in your first-aid kit, a pocketbook version on your person and if you have the room. You may even want to consider a first aid handbook app.
What other first aid items would you recommend?