In this part of the world, public transport is notorious for causing massive road traffic accidents that result in multiple casualties. So before I joined medical college, whenever I traveled, I used to get comfortable when I saw a first aid box placed somewhere at the back of the vehicle. I knew that if an accident happened, someone would use the first aid box to help me. It was a very naïve mindset because I could not ascertain if the box had contents, and even if it had the contents, were people trained to use the first aid box appropriately. To bridge the health gap, we shall look into a first aid kit, outline its contents and uses, and discuss Dos and Don’ts of first aid.
A First aid kit
A first aid kit can be a box, bag, or pack that holds a collection of medical supplies used during an emergency to provide lifesaving interventions. A first aid kit should always be available for the home environment, workplace, or travel. Therefore, we shall prepare a first aid kit contents list that can serve multiple purposes;
Common causes of emergencies
Cuts, bruises, sprains, strains, fractures, insect bites and stings, burns.
Contents of a general first aid kit
Though there are different types of first aid kits, the principle of use is similar. We shall discuss the contents of a general first aid kit that is appropriate for home use but can be used to serve different purposes.
- The first aid carrier. The first aid carrier should be durable and water-resistant, has a reflector to provide easy visibility when in darkness. It can be compartmentalized for easy placement of first aid equipment.
- Examination gloves. Both clean gloves and sterile surgical gloves. Surgical gloves are necessary when supporting large open wounds and reducing the risk of contamination.
- Antiseptic agent. These are antimicrobial cleaning agents for wounds and cuts to prevent disease-causing microorganisms.
- Thermometer. For body temperature measurement.
- Sterile 4” by 4” gauze pads: Keep several gauze pads in the first aid kit. They are suitable for cleaning wounds and cuts and for applying antiseptic agents.
- Roller gauze: Nonsterile, used for wrapping and bandaging wounds and cuts
- Adhesive tape: is used to hold bandages and wound dressings in place.
- Adhesive bandages (assorted). A small and flexible sheet of material that is sticky on both ends with a soft middle. Sterile and packaged in an envelope.
- Non-adhesive pads: Extra absorbent, sterile pad are for covering large open wounds and cuts for extra caution. The material allows air circulation.
- Triangular bandages: Very versatile and used for several purposes. As a sling to provide caution for fractured limb, wrapping over head wounds, or as compression dressing to arrest bleeding.
- Safety pins: Pin bandages and wrappers together.
- Scissors. An essential tool in the first aid box. Used for cutting bandages and also restrictive clothing to a wound.
- Tweezers: Used for removing sticky dirt on open wounds or mints from the skin.
- Tourniquet: Tightrubber bands to control bleeding when major blood vessels of arm and leg injuries are severed. Use a tourniquet when bleeding cannot stop by applying direct pressure. Training on the appropriate use of a tourniquet is required as prolonged use can lead to muscle damage below the place of application.
- Splints. Use splints to immobilize bone in cases of fractures.
- Oral antihistamine: An anti-allergy medication to counteract the effects of histamine.
- Antacids: For the relief of stomach upsets, indigestions, and heartburns.Over-the-counter products are available.
- Aspirin: This medicine can be lifesaving to a person having a heart attack or chest pain.
- Analgesics. Oral pain relief medications for headaches, muscle aches, backaches such as paracetamol, ibuprofen.
- Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) mask: Used to deliver mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. CPR pocket mask provides effective rescue breath to the victim.
- Flashlight: Emergencies can occur in the darkness. A flashlight is required to light the first aid operation area or as a signal to attract support in an outdoor emergency.
- Plastic re-sealable bag (for waste): For secure containment of waste materials generated during theadministering of first aid.
- Blanket. A blanket has multiple uses in a first aid kit. You can use it to put off the fire in the kitchen, wrap the victim to provide warmth, or spread out and form the workstation.
- First aid basic manual. The manual acts as a reference.It can act as a guide or a protocol for emergency interventions.
- Fire extinguisher. In the house, the kitchen is the source of unwarranted burns and scalds. Always have a fire extinguisher. Everyone in the household must understand the basic principle of first aid.
Dos of first aid
There are basic actions to increase the chance of survival for the victim;
- Ensure that you are safe. You can only be able to help another person when you’re safe. Look at the surrounding and identify any dangers to your safety.
- Make sure the casualty is safe from further injury. Remove the offending factor from the victim.
- Lay the person down on a blanket to be warm. Give an assurance that you are there to help.
- Loosen tight clothes on the victim so that they can access fresh air.
- Use direct pressure to stop any form of bleeding.
- Call emergency medical service responders who will take over the care of the casualty. You can assign a bystander this role as you take care of the casualty.
- Update the contents of first aid kit once every year.
- Check expiry dates of all medications.
- Always restock used materials.
Don’ts of first aid
When supporting a casualty, be aware of your limitations.
- Do not give the casualty any food or water to drink. Only health personnel can decide if it is an option when the emergency services arrive.
- Do not move the casualty if you suspect the person may be having a head injury or broken bones.
- In case of suspected broken limbs, do not move the casualty. Support the broken part by holding the joints above and below.
- If the casualty has a large open wound with a bone hanging about, do not attempt to push it back. Instead, cover with clean clothes.
- Do not try to clean a large open wound. There is the risk of introducing microorganisms in the process.
There has been a lot of debate on the safe use of tourniquets. On one hand, it is very beneficial in the control of bleeding involving major arteries that cannot be controlled by external pressure. On the other hand, when not properly applied, or left for a long time, it can cause damage to peripheral limbs. Always get proper training on its use.