Every home should have a first aid kit. This may be located in a cupboard in the home, but it should have ease of access, and the items must be readily available. After use, whatever is removed should be replaced so that the kit is ready for use at any time.
Ideally the kit or cabinet should have two halves if it is being used in conjunction with the medicine cabinet of the home in general. One half should be the items that may be required in a hurry. The other half will contain any medication that is being used regularly by members of the house.
Some well-organized homes have the first aid kit in a separate container. In fact, most of the items that will be mentioned can be made to fit in a normal sized plastic ice-cream container. This allows them to be ready at any moment, available kn. use. This is an excellent idea. Some also carry a second one in the boot of the car, so that there will always be first aid items available wherever you are.
Most of the items can be bought at modest cost from your local pharmacist. (St John Ambulance produces first aid kits containing useful items of high quality. These are purpose-built for the home, car, boat, workplace etc and are reasonably priced.) Items outlined here are the ones that experience has shown will be needed sooner or later by most families in routine first aid measures. Of course it does not include the needs for major accidents, when you will require the professional help of the ambulance services and doctors, and probably the hospital. But these are the minority. Smaller emergencies are by far the more probable, and will affect most people sooner or later.
It is worth having a talk with your doctor and getting approval for a few prescription lines, such as items useful in the event of diarrhea (very common on holidays and trips), antihistamines (for allergic reactions, itches etc also a very common problem) and antinausea medication (this is a major problem with many families on trips).
Here are the chief items that every first aid kit should contain.
- Pain-Killers. A bottle of 25 or 50 tablets of the pain-killer fever-reducing tablets. Paracetamol, 500 mg tablets, are used for pain of any description, and elevated temperatures. The usual adult dose is two tablets, preferably not on an empty stomach. Children aged five to 12 years, half this dose. For children five years and under it is preferable to use paracetamol elixir. A 100 ml bottle of this may be included if it is likely children may be involved. Dose varies according to the age, but is usually 5 ml—see label for variations.
- Antidiarrhea Tablets. Often diarrhea afflicts people suddenly, particularly when travelling or on holidays. Having some Lomotil tablets in the kit is advisable. These come in tinfoil strips for long keeping. Adult dose is usually two tablets three to four times daily. Alternatively Imodium capsules are excellent. Adult dose is two caps at once, plus one after each loose bowel action. These are unsuited to children, when fluids and starvation for 24 hours is preferable. Similar food withdrawal and fluids assist adults also.
- Antihistamines. A small supply of these is a good idea. The old-time sedating brands have been superseded by the nonsense dating ones (Teldane and Hismanal – directions on packet). These are mainly available “over-the-counter.” Usual adult dose is one tablet one to two times a day.
- Antinausia Tablets. The simplest antinausea, antivomiting medication is prochlorperazine tablets (Stemetil). The usual adult dose is one tablet three to four times a day, plus cessation of food and sips of cold fluid, preferably water, or sucking ice. For children under five, withhold food and give fluids (water or Gastrolyte) only and not medication, as reactions occasionally take place. This is suitable for any form of motion sickness and nausea (including car, air or seasickness). Only a small number of tablets will be necessary (say 10). Vomiting does not usually constitute an emergency, except as a symptom of shock or head injury. If it persists, or if there is blood in the vomit, an ulcer or internal injury may be present.
No attempt should be made to suppress vomiting. No food or medicine should be given. A conscious patient should lie down in a quiet place, preferably with a basin nearby, and an unconscious or semiconscious patient should be placed in a stable side position in order to prevent the inhalation of vomit. If the patient has inhaled vomit and is choking, clear the airway.
- Cough Mixture. This may be advisable, and any of the pholcodine elixirs are suitable. Usual dose for adults is 10 – 15 ml every three to four hours, and proportionately less for children. It is very safe for all age groups.
- Antiseptics. For cleansing of wounds, simple cold running water is best. This will quickly get rid of dirt and debris, and is also suitable for burns.
- Anti-Itch Cream. This may be useful for itchy skin areas, particularly following any type of insect bite. Caladryl or Eurax or a mild steroid cream is suitable.
- Dressings. It is essential to have a minimum number of dressings. Suggested are:
- 4 x 50 mm (2-inch) cotton bandages
- 4 x 25 mm (1 -inch) cotton bandages
- 2 x 76 mm (3-inch) crepe bandages
- (preferably good-quality pink ones) pack of Band-Aid spots and strips (25 – 50—always handy)
- small pack of cotton wool 113 g (about 4 ounces)
- 1 small roll of 1 cm adhesive tape (water resistant preferably).
- Instruments. For the average home kit, only two items are essential. A pair of sharp scissors (preferably with one blade-end blunt and the other sharp). Also a pair of sharp-ended forceps. The former are for cutting bits of loose skin, digging out foreign bodies (gravel etc) from skin wounds, cutting bandages etc. The latter are ideal for removing embedded foreign bodies in the skin and removing splinters, especially from behind fingernails.
- Extras. If you wish to go the “extra mile” and think you might want to help in larger emergencies, adding two triangular bandages, and perhaps 3 x 101 mm (4-inch) crepe bandages, gauze, and a packet of safety pins will not go amiss for treating larger accidents. Having a few splints available may also come in handy. However, for the average first aider at home, these necessities will not often arise. St John Ambulance has excellent ready-made first aid kits with instruction leaflets. Latex gloves (to avoid possible contamination from patient).
- Emergency Phone Numbers. It is always important to have the hospital emergency phone numbers in your first aid kit box.