Friday, October 15, 2010

Rx: How to make a First Aid Kit

{Today I'm launching a new segment called Rx that will feature tips and advice for one of the things I know best: nursing. When I'm not blogging, I'm working as a RN and getting a master's degree in women's health. I love to teach and share what I know. Rx will feature general health topics referenced by major medical journals or research articles (not my own opinions) and will definitely be more fun to read than what's in a doctor's office waiting room.}

People sometimes think that my home first aid kit is stocked like the back of an ambulance. Not really. There aren't too many emergencies around my house except for a bagel-cutting accident every now and again. My first aid kit is pretty minimal, not a lot of clutter, but includes my favorite essentials that you can't find in a pre-made first aid kit:

The Goods

Band-Aids: I'm usually a fan of generics, but not when it comes to band-aids. I stock extra finger band-aids (the most common injury), and have a few extra large band-aids just in case.

Tape: 3M's transpore tape is like medical duct tape. It easily tears into any size strip without using scissors. I tape on gauze for make-shift band-aids or tape over blisters to prevent rubbing. Any tape can irritate the skin after a while, so use Coban for frequent dressing changes.

Coban: This self-adherent wrap is good for wrapping legs or arms when tape isn't a good option.

Dakin's solution: When cleaning out wounds, old or new, this pH neutral solution has shown consistent results. I don't like how hydrogen peroxide dries out the skin. Tip: you can make Dakin's solution at home with common household items.

Arnica gel: Arnica is a plant that has long been used for its anti-inflammatory effect. I use it, like many athletic trainers, as a topical salve for sports injuries. Note: keep away from children, the active compound Helenalin is highly toxic if ingested.

Antibiotic ointment: Even hospitals use generics. Fougera triple antibiotic ointment is used in every hospital I have ever worked in and is the exact same as Neosporin, but half the cost.

Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen: Grab the generics, but always read the label and dose according to age/weight. My general rule is: ibuprofen for general aches or inflammation, tylenol for specific aches or fever (because of their specific actions on prostaglandins). Choose tylenol if you're pregnant/breast feeding.

Mylanta: I prefer the combo of ingredients in Mylanta for heartburn or upset stomach. It works by neutralizing stomach acid and relaxing the gastic lining. The liquid works faster and has fewer side effects or interactions than calcium carbonate or bismuth subsalicylate containing meds. For diarrhea, Pepto-bismol's ingredient, bismuth subsalicylate is more effective.

Digital Thermometer: The cheap thermometers are sometimes best. Those forehead or ear thermometers can be tricky to place (even I have trouble) and therefore prone to inaccuracy. Under the tongue in that back "pocket" is the easiest place to aim. When placing under the armpit, add a degree. When placing rectally, subtract a degree.

2x2 Gauze Pads: I buy the basic sterile 2x2 gauze pads for ease. When you're in a rush, you know they're clean and you can just add a few more for a larger wound. Less decisions means faster care. Tip: For a real "gusher", I grab heavy duty paper towel and apply firm, direct pressure. Non-sterile paper towel is fine if it's temporary, plus repeatedly having to stop and replace or add small gauze pads will only inhibit clotting.

Tweezers: Splinter tweezers are long and sharp, perfect for removing splinters, bee stingers, gravel, or whatever else gets stuck in you.

Pseudoephedrine: Yes, you have to show your ID and go through hoops to get it, but it's worth it to stock this item at home. This medicine mimics the fight or flight response, constricting blood vessels in the nasal passages and drying up mucous. Not all Sudafed is the same, Phenylephrine is similar to pseudoephedrine, but not as effective.

Miscellaneous Extras
Popsicle sticks: use as a tongue depressor or wrap with coban for makeshift finger splint.
Non-Latex gloves: Remember, clean hands go a long way! Most first aid procedures don't require gloves, but I stock a few disposable pairs just in case. If a wound or rash looks infected (red, swollen, pussy) wear gloves. If there's a lot of blood, wear gloves. A latex allergies can show up anytime, so opt for non-latex.
The Poison Control Center: This is always a good number to have on hand if there are small kids in the house (even curious dogs). Call 1-800-222-1222 anywhere in the US.

And when you've gathered all your first aid goodies, here's a cute cabinet from all the luck in the world to put them in! (I just put mine in a dull little basket)


  1. This is great! It's so good to hear which items are okay to buy generic and which are better to buy by brand. Thanks for this!

  2. This is great list! Especially that it came from an experienced RN. And that gorgeous cabinet is so adorable in its orange color. Have a beautiful day, Kellie xx

  3. Great idea for a post - info we all need. Thanks!



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