Band-Aids® – Not Gonna Cover It! (Part 2)


What Everyone Should Know About Disaster Medical First Aid (Part 2)

Last week we discussed the various personal injuries that should be anticipated as a result of calamities, emergencies and disasters. We mentioned that only 1% of the population in the United States is a First-Responder and how the other 99% relies upon so few to provide medical assistance to so many! We asked the question – so how do we stay alive and preserve lives of others? This week we crack open that first aid kit you’ve stashed away and apply a little scrutiny.

In the world of Emergency Medical Services (EMS), there’s a saying. “If it’s ugly, cover it up.” Now we’re not talking about Grandpa’s foot corns or that nasty looking, hairy mole growing on Auntie’s back, but this saying really is a great rule of thumb. Bleeding wounds need to be covered and compressed to get them to stop. So what do you need? First is protection for you as the emergency first aid provider. Blood-borne pathogens are a very real threat and always a serious safety concern.  Non-latex gloves are a necessity – and not just one pair. Have a minimum of 3 pair – all extra large (they fit almost everyone). Also, protect your eyes from spurting or splashing blood with goggles.

Sterile gauze and roller bandages are essential items to have on hand during a bleeding incident. You need to create a pressure bandage (remember that first aid class mentioned earlier?) which stops most bleeding. Don’t have gauze? Towels, sheets, shirts – any clean fabric makes for a good emergency alternative. Most bleeding will stop with applied pressure.

But wait. How about family members or co-workers mentioned in part 1 of this blog post who might be taking blood thinners – Coumadin (also often known by its generic name warfarin) Dicumarol, Miradon, heparin and even aspirin are common blood thinners or anticoagulants. Also consider those who may have bleeding disorders (Hemophilia or congenital disorders). What about an arterial bleed? Arteries are under direct pressure from the heart. Thus, if an artery is cut or nicked, bleeding can be substantial and often difficult to stop. Seriously consider including a hemostatic (a substance which, when placed in or on a wound, quickly stops bleeding) in your emergency medical supplies. A hemostatic promotes rapid clotting in bleeding wounds. Celox® is the hemostatic of choice for the ICE PACK™ Medical First Aid module in our Emergency Sustainment System (ESS). We use the Celox® Trauma Gauze which is simple to apply, requires no medical knowledge or training, and can be used for both moderate to severe bleeding as well as covering serious burns.

Fractures & Dislocation
Broken bones and joint dislocation are common injuries among many natural, man-made and war/terrorism disaster scenarios. The most important thing you can do is to immobilize the affected limb or joint with a splint. This minimizes pain and helps limit further damage to the limb or joint. Christy Hodge, a National Registered Paramedic, says that just about anything can be used to splint an injury including magazines, rolled newspapers, or even selected pieces of broken debris. However, if you want to truly be prepared, consider adding a SAM® Splint to your supplies. The SAM® Splint (also included in our Medical ESS) is made of a thin core of pliable aluminum alloy sandwiched between two layers of malleable foam. It allows you to form a ridged splint into just about any shape you might need. This blog post is by no means a first aid course, but always remember to splint above and below the injured site and don’t secure the splint so tightly as to cut off circulation!

Other Considerations

Diarrhea. Not a pleasant subject, but even a less pleasant experience – especially if you are in an emergency situation. Put some anti-diarrheal medication into those medical supplies of yours. We do! (As an aside, make sure you’ve planned adequately for sanitary disposal of human waste) Just remember – all medications have expiration dates. The subject of OTC (over the counter) drug expiration is actually a bit controversial, but the rule around here is to replace drugs once expired. It probably won’t break your budget and it is safest to rest easy knowing you have full-potency with any drug.

Pain & Inflammation. Ouch! Not many injuries or illnesses come without pain and discomfort. Make sure you include a pain reliever such as acetaminophen (Tylenol™) as well as an anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen (Advil™). Both drugs reduce fever. Ibuprofen is also a pain reliever, of course, but some have heightened sensitivity to drugs. Keep this consideration in mind for all your medications. If you include aspirin for instance – does anyone in your family or those working around you have an allergy to aspirin? Some people do. Be sure you know about drug allergies and sensitivities of family members and co-workers to medications before you add them to your medical first aid supplies!

Prescription Drugs. Speaking of medications – what about that pill you take for high blood pressure or for thyroid disease or a hundred other ailments which require maintenance prescription drugs? You should certainly try to stock up on these important drugs. In most cases this is actually easier said than done, however. First, prescriptions are written around the concept of a single monthly dose of medication. Don’t skip your dosage just to try to increase your emergency stock! Doing so is not healthy and, depending on the drug and medical condition, could be life-threatening. Getting your physician to prescribe you more than your monthly dose could be challenging. Not to mention insurance companies won’t pay for more of a drug than what you are taking on a monthly basis – so it could be expensive if you have to pay “out of pocket”. Solution? Talk to your doctor about your concerns about having a backup supply of meds. Together you will likely come up with an alternative for your particular condition and circumstances. Here is one final note on prescription drugs. Regardless of your position on drug expiration dates, don’t ignore the expiration date on nitroglycerin (often prescribed to heart patients) and insulin (diabetic patients) in particular. These medications (among other specific prescription drugs) should not be taken after their expiration date.

Dental. It’s safe to say that few people enjoy a trip to the dentist. However, a sudden severe toothache, broken crown or tooth damage in the middle of a disaster situation could have you begging to hear the screeching whine of a dentist’s drill. Swollen gums due to something as significant as facial trauma or as simple as food stuck between your teeth can bring miserable circumstances to a whole new level. So – don’t forget your teeth when you are scrutinizing your emergency medical first aid kit! Include the simplest tools of dental care such as floss and toothpicks. Other important items include salt (rinse your mouth with warm saltwater to relieve toothaches & sore gums) and Orabase with Benzocain (for canker sores, cold sores, fever blisters). Some may remember mom saying to put an aspirin on a tooth causing pain or on an irritating canker sore. Mom was wrong. Aspirin slowly dissolving in close contact with the skin can produce chemical burns.

The following are additional important items that any first-rate disaster medical emergency kit should include:

  • First Aid manuals and guides (signed up for that first aid class yet?) Give thought to whether your situation requires these items in other languages.
  • Notepad & pen (document those medications as well as what medical interventions were done & when)
  • Headlamp
  • Hand sanitizer; gels or wipes
  • NIOSH N95 respirator
  • Goggles (eye protection)
  • CPR barrier
  • Alcohol wipes (Lots!)
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Trauma shears
  • Tweezers & magnifying glass
  • Hypoallergenic medical tape
  • Bandages (not just Band-aids®, but abdominal trauma pads as well for large-area wounds or excessive bleeding and butterfly strips for wound closure)
  • Gauze dressings (including gauze roll)
  • Foil blanket (for exposure)
  • Sunblock
  • Heat and cold packs
  • Cloth slings
  • Tarp (to protect the injured from the elements and harsh environmental conditions if needed)
  • Over-the-Counter (OTC) meds including: aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, a decongestant (tablets) diphenhydramine HCL (Benedryl) for allergic reactions, anti-diarrhea, eye drops, antacids. Note only certain types of decongestants are recommended for those with high blood pressure.
  • Several pairs of extra large size latex gloves
  • Emergency Dental Kit

How did your first aid kit hold up under a little scrutiny? Our Monday Matters final thought – “Survivor or statistic. The choice is yours…” (yes, it’s our company tag line, but it couldn’t be more appropriately used than in this discussion!). Reading this blog post is absolutely no replacement for qualified professional medical advice and certified first aid training. Contact the Red Cross and schedule first aid training for your family or office now!


Did you miss part one is this series? Click here to read Band-Aids® – Not Gonna Cover It!


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