I need a first aid kit shopping list
January 10, 2012 5:56 PM   Subscribe

What needs to be in a good first aid kit?

A friend is going to Guatemala next month to teach people in a rural community to use woodworking tools safely. I was thinking a nice gift would be a good first aid kit but I really have no idea what that is. I was thinking more along the lines of actual items to assist with trauma for the time it takes to get to a hospital rather than the sort of convenience items a lot of kits seem to consist of. It would have to be stuff that people with no real medical background can use. I would prefer to assemble it myself but if a store bought kit makes more sense I will do that.
posted by InkaLomax to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
Here's what the red cross recommends.
posted by HuronBob at 6:01 PM on January 10, 2012

Some things that aren't in store-bought kit but which I find are used more often than much of what is in the kits:
- eye drops / something to flush out eyes
- antihistamine
- hemostats
- A proper book in addition to those cliff-notes first-aid booklets you get in kits.

Since wood-working is involved, perhaps some more serious bandages and tape, if not sutures.
posted by -harlequin- at 6:22 PM on January 10, 2012

It'd be awfully considerate (if they don't already have it) to include these two books.

Definitely be sure to include splints and lots of gauze.
posted by SMPA at 6:22 PM on January 10, 2012

A packet of table salt, like you'd get at a dinner.

One pinch per liter makes non sterile saline which you can still use to flush eyes in an emergency. Excellent for responding to pepper spray or teargas in the event of civil unrest.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:27 PM on January 10, 2012

Super glue. It can make a nice liquid stitch, and can patch up finger and toe nails that have split or somehow gotten cut up near the quick.
posted by Gilbert at 6:44 PM on January 10, 2012

How funny, I just put one together today for my job. I got bandaids, neosporin, some wound cleaning stuff, and basic drugs (aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, etc). I also got eye drops, hand sanitizer, and floss. Because sometimes you need emergency dental floss. I'm in an office where it's very unlikely that anything more severe than a paper cut will occur, so didn't worry too much about gauze/etc for massive wounds.

The one thing I always get, though, that hasn't been listed yet, is benadryl. If someone starts having a severe allergic reaction to something, feed them benadryl until the ambulance arrives.
posted by phunniemee at 6:48 PM on January 10, 2012

Best answer: I'm at work (currently posting sitting on the back bumper of my ambulance) but I'll try to remember the non-technical things I have had in mine over the years.

CPR pocket mask

(Also in mine: stethoscope, BP cuff, OPAs, manual suction unit, IV stuff)

Lots of Ace bandages - in 3" and 5"
Roller gauze
5 x 9 gauze
4 x 4 gauze
Multi-trauma dressing
SAM splint
Scotchcast one-step splints in various sizes
Finger splint
Cold packs
Hot packs
Space blanket
Moleskin blister stuff

(Also in mine: occlusive dressing, stabby things)

Triple antibiotic ointment
Bee-sting swabs
Aloe sunburn stuff

(Also in mine: my EpiPen)

Saline wash (they make it in a can, really good for washing grit out of wounds and spraying debris out of eyes)
Alcohol preps
Hand sanitizer
Trauma shears
Splinter stuff - tweezers, needles, etc
Super glue
Water-based lube (useful for getting off rings)
Plastic bags (in case someone cuts off a finger)

(Also in mine: water bottles, flashlight, knife, side-cutting pliers, work gloves, fire extinguisher, a shit-ton of get out of dodge stuff.)

I can't remember if that's all of it or even if I'm overestimating. But that's a tired paramedic's approximation.
posted by skyl1n3 at 7:27 PM on January 10, 2012 [17 favorites]

Non latex gloves in quantity and a variety of sizes should be the first thing in every first aid kit.
posted by ChrisHartley at 7:30 PM on January 10, 2012

Tegaderm, and its knock-offs. They are clear coverings meant to be put on big scrapes (like road rash, but also presumably for sanding mishaps) and left in place for several days.

Also, that gauze that sticks to itself -- Coflex is one. Go to a pet store or veterinary supply store and buy a knock-off there, since it costs a lot less.

Burn gel.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:36 PM on January 10, 2012

Memail me. I have tons of gauze pads in multiple sizes and assorted tapes left over from making first aid kits with my Girl Scouts. Plus more antibiotic band-aids that even my accident prone self could use. I'd be happy to send you some random stuff to include.
posted by Ruki at 7:37 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

In a rural environment operating woodworking tools I'd add QuickClot or Celox clotting sponges and granules.
posted by nicwolff at 8:57 PM on January 10, 2012

Lots of good suggestions above, here are some more:

Came in to mention SAM Splint, they're very light and versatile. Already been mentioned, but a good idea for any larger first aid kit, especially if you don't expect quick access to definitive care (i.e. a hospital).

I'll add a Maxi Pad to the list. They make great trauma dressings at a fraction of the cost of purpose-made ones, plus it's never a bad idea to have a spare sanitary napkin on hand.

Uncoated aspirin, full strength. Chew two in case of chest pain (if you suspect it might be heart-attack related, as you should barring any more obvious explanation) as a fast-acting anticoagulant.

Some sort of broad-spectrum antibiotic if you can get it, in case of systemic infection (sepsis) resulting from poorly-treated wounds. Make sure you have instructions to administer them properly.

A squeeze bottle so that you can direct a stream of water onto a cut to clean it out where there's no running water available.

Iodine or chlorine drops to purify that water if you have to use water of questionable cleanliness. This is to prevent the above systemic infection from happening. Also can be put in the water in higher concentrations (make it look like coke for cuts, like tea for burns) to make an antiseptic wash.

A small candy bar in case of hypoglycemic crisis (for diabetics).

Temporary filling paste for broken teeth.

A good first aid handbook.

That's what I can think of off the top of my head. Why yes, I did take a Wilderness EMT course, why do you ask?
posted by Scientist at 9:45 PM on January 10, 2012

There are some good suggestions here. I love the book Where There Is No Doctor. If you're on a limited budget, focusing on the trauma/wound related items is probably a good idea for a woodworking trip.

My only other suggestion is, if you can get your hands on a medical stapler, send that. They're not generally sold in the USA in pharmacies, but I've known people to almost bleed out from scalp lacerations before being able to get to a location that could close the wound. (Medical staplers are generally only used on scalps, for other cuts, Dermabond/tissue glue and steri-strips could be used by a lay person). If you can get QuickClot then so much the better! (can lay people get QuickClot??)

I would also suggest to make the kit small enough that he can carry it with him.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:20 PM on January 10, 2012

I looked at the Red Cross list and as per usual, we disagree in proportion, if nothing else.

Triangular bandages? As many as you can. Seriously. If you have to deal with a broken bone, you're going to use at least 4 of those (two above and below the break) to tie off a splint. If you don't have those, you're going to be really struggling for something to use as a decent cravat. In the past, I've used tall kitchen plastic trash bags to do that and they didn't work well.

If you're going to add one other drug to the list, add Benadryl. It doesn't react badly to other drugs and you'll use it to stop anaphylaxis when you have nothing else and will help someone sleep.

If the kit is going to be used in situations where you're going to be nowhere near a freezer, get 3 instant cold packs, not 1. 3 will get you through a night of traveling.

5 antiseptic wipe packs? You've got to be kidding me. More like a dozen. Alcohol pads are cheap.

Make sure the scissors in the kit don't suck.

Make sure there's a very sharp knife.

Pack everything by function in zip lock bags. Why? It keeps things dry, orderly and sorted and now you've got a collection of zlip lock bags to use.

A first aid kit should be looked at like how Alton Brown sets up a kitchen. Avoid unitaskers wherever possible. There are very few acceptable exceptions - CPR mask, thermometer (and I'm a maybe on this - most of the time we need one in our house and don't have one at hand, we use a kiss on the forehead as triage. A fever is obvious).
posted by plinth at 3:23 AM on January 11, 2012

This isn't for woodworking-type trauma per se, but in my experience working with rural communities in Asia, people often ask me for something to help with the debilitating tooth pain from cavities until the time when they can travel somewhere to have the tooth pulled. My dentist recommended I take Anbesol with me.

People also often ask for pain relievers, especially to deal with migraines.

I also get repeat requests for pepto-bismol tablets to nip food poisoning in the bud.

Once I inherited a Peace Corps first aid kit (contents here) and those items went faster than hotcakes. I would say the single use packets of Bacitracin/Neosporin and the bandaids came in particularly useful.
posted by scrambles at 8:18 AM on January 11, 2012

Lots of great suggestions above, would also add a bottle of alcohol and waterproof matches, in case you need to sterilize scissors or knife or tweezers. That may seem unnecessary, but hey, better to have and not use than not to have at all.

Oh, and by tweezers, I mean the good kind medical tweezers (and scissors) you see in doctor's offices that are used for sutures and other things not the kind you get at a drugstore. You can find them at medical supply stores or online. If you have the contacts, check with a doctor's office or clinic that may be willing to give them to you. I recently had to get some sutures removed, and the office gave me the suture kit they used because they do not re-sterilize equipment. (How's that for potential medical waste?) They were going to just toss them. I had a perfectly good set for my first aid kit, and now a backup set for my pet first aid kit, too.

Err on getting larger bandages / gauze pads that can be cut down to size. Also a fan of Hibiclens and a hurt-free antiseptic wash (great for kids and pets).

And definitely follow plinth's suggestion of using ziplock bags to organize and sort. Trust me, you don't want to be in a situation where your kit needs to be used and find that it has been drowned or compromised in some way. An extra layer of plastic never hurt, and the bags can be reused to dispose of bloody bandages or other things in a responsible manner.
posted by southpaw at 9:02 AM on January 11, 2012

Duct tape. I have a roll of it around the carrying strap of my kit. I also have a good multi-tool, a pencil and small pad of paper.
posted by kamikazegopher at 2:09 PM on January 11, 2012

Gloves. Plenty of gloves. If there's any blood or bodily fluid about, grabbing a pair of gloves should be the first step. Everything above is useful, but these will protect the aid-giver from potential disease.
posted by BevosAngryGhost at 8:02 PM on January 11, 2012

Steri-Strips, for pulling wounds together until they can be stitched. Iodine drops to purify water, maybe some activated charcoal, and a good supply of tooth repair clay - what wondrous stuff that is. A veterinary supply carries what we used to call a "pink puffer" - a plastic squeeze bottle (was pink in color) which contained terramycin powder for treating pinkeye in animals, but it really worked well whenever an animal had a wound that he wouldn't let you touch; for instance, a fighting tom cat who'd get should have known when to quit and didn't - I'd just puff some of that powder into the wound and it would dissolve right in the wound and get it started healing (his wounds were always on top of his head and he couldn't clean them adequately himself). Anyway, that powder is an excellent antibiotic. And you might look around the vet supply while you're there - there are suture materials and such (if you get two kits, you can practice suturing on an orange with one - a good learning experience).

And I'd recommend a tourniquet if you're going to be using saws and other cutting tools, even though it should be a last resort thing, the last resort just might happen under those circumstances.

It seems like a lot, but I'd think a suitcase full of medical supplies would be about right for someone going into an underedeveloped area to teach people to use woodworking tools.

And kudos to your friend for his efforts.
posted by aryma at 11:22 PM on January 11, 2012

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