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The power of Being Prepared: The medical stuff

Updated: Mar 14, 2021

The good news is that the most common injuries requiring first aid are also the most minor. Most small cuts, scrapes, first-degree burns, insect bites are easily treated. Having a basic first aid kit handy, and knowing how to use it, is the first step to healing, and can avoid problems later on. For the more serious wounds and injuries, a well-stocked kit with a few supplies more advanced than bandages and antiseptic ointment can help prevent long-term or permanent damage before an injured person can reach an emergency room or professional help arrives.

Well-stocked kits should be easily and quickly available in your home, in the car, and where you work or play. Keep one in your camper/RV. Keep one in your boat. Keep one at your cabin. But, even the best kits can't help if you don't know what you've got in there, or how to use it. Furthermore, children old enough to unwrap and properly apply a bandage should be part of age-appropriate training - in case the adults are at work and the worst happens. They should absolutely know how to call 911 and apply pressure to stop bleeding. Studies have shown that children as young as 5 years can be taught to correctly assess and describe simple injuries over the phone to emergency dispatchers, and even apply basic first aid.

I encourage everybody to become familiar with basic first aid. Many organizations offer in-person classes at nominal cost in most communities, and if that isn't possible, consider the online courses offered by the American Red Cross. Since my husband and I hadn't recently taken the course, we did the Adult, Child and Baby First Aid/CPR/AED Online course over a couple of afternoons just the other day. The cost for the online course is just $35.00.

What are the Basic First Aid Procedures you should become familiar with?

Wait! First things, first! Before attempting first aid, do the following:

Three C's of an Emergency

  1. Check. Check means checking for anything unsafe. If the emergency is surrounded by danger, assistance may be needed. ...

  2. Call. In emergency situations, it's important to call 911 immediately. You may need to ask for another person to call 911. Also ask them to retrieve a first aid kit and AED, if there is one available.

  3. Care. After checking the scene and calling for help, provide care until medical professionals arrive on the scene.

Three P's of First Aid

  1. Preserve Life. As a first responder to any situation, you first priority should be to preserve life. You may need to perform CPR, stop bleeding or take other action to preserve the victim’s life. Start with C-A-B—circulation, airway, and breathing

  2. Prevent Deterioration. Do what you can to keep the victim in stable condition until medical professionals arrive. The goal is to prevent the condition from worsening and prevent any potential further injury.

  3. Promote Recovery. After you’ve done what you can do with first aid treatment, your job now is to promote recovery. This can be done by encouraging confidence, providing comfort, attempting to relieve pain, and so on.


If someone is injured you should first:

1- Check that you and the injured person aren't in any danger, and, if possible, make the situation safe.

2 - If necessary, call 911 for an ambulance when it's safe to do so, or request that another person do this.

3 - Carry out basic first aid.

None of the following should be considered a substitute for professional medical attention. If you're not sure about the nature of the injury or what to do, get help immediately. Call 911 yourself or ask another person to do that. The information on this website/blog is for entertainment purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for training by certified personnel like the American Red Cross or similar bodies. There is no guarantee of accuracy - express or implied - of the medical information on this website.

First Aid for Cardiac Arrest:

According to the American Heart Association and American Red Cross 2019 guidelines, the steps to take when a cardiac arrest is suspected are:

  • Command someone to call 911.

  • Immediately start chest compressions regardless of your training. Compress hard and fast in the center of the chest, allowing recoil between compressions. Hand this task over to those who are trained if and when they arrive.

  • If you are trained, use chest compressions and rescue breathing.

  • An AED should be applied and used. But it is essential not to delay chest compressions, so finding one should be commanded to someone else while you are doing chest compressions.

First Aid for Bleeding:

Steps to take if you are faced with bleeding right now:

  1. Cover the wound with a gauze or a cloth.

  2. Apply direct pressure to stop the blood flow.

  3. Don't remove the cloth. Add more layers if needed. The cloth will help clots form to stop the flow.

You may want to consider adding a Stop The Bleed kit from the American College of Surgeon's Committee on Trauma. These can be purchased at STOPTHEBLEED.ORG I have a kit in my home, in my car and in my 'go bags'.

First Aid for Burns:

Take these first aid steps:

  1. Flush the burned area with cool running water for several minutes. Do not use ice.

  2. Apply a light gauze bandage.

  3. Do not apply ointments, butter, or oily remedies to the burn.

  4. Take ibuprofen or acetaminophen for pain relief if necessary.

  5. Do not break any blisters that may have formed.

First Aid for Blisters:

If the blister is large or painful—especially if the activity isn’t finished (such as you are in the middle of a hike)—follow steps to drain and dress a blister. If the blister is small, unbroken and not very painful, it is probably best to leave it alone. Cover it to prevent continued rubbing and pressure on it that can cause it to swell more and possibly burst on its own.

  1. Use a sterilized needle and make small punctures at the edge of the blister.

  2. Express the fluid.

  3. Then apply antibiotic ointment.

  4. Cover it to protect it from further rubbing and pressure.

First Aid for Fractures:

Take these steps for a suspected fracture:

  1. Don't try to straighten it.

  2. Stabilize the limb using a splint and padding to keep it immobile.

  3. Put a cold pack on the injury, avoiding placing ice directly on the skin.

  4. Elevate the extremity.

  5. Give anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen or naproxen.

First Aid for Sprains:

The symptoms of a sprain are almost exactly the same as that of a broken bone. When in doubt, first aid for sprains should be the same as broken bones. Immobilize the limb, apply a cold pack, elevate it, and take anti-inflammatory drugs. See your doctor for further diagnosis and treatment.

First Aid for Nosebleeds:

The first aid for nosebleed includes:

  1. Lean slightly forward, not back.

  2. Pinch the nose just below the bridge. Don't pinch the nostrils closed by pinching lower.

  3. Check after five minutes to see if bleeding has stopped. If not, continue pinching and check after another 10 minutes.

  4. You can also apply a cold pack to the bridge of the nose while pinching.

First Aid for Frostbite:

Treating frostbite is a delicate procedure of gradual warming. If at all possible, this should be done by professionals at a medical facility. First, get out of the cold. Small areas of minor frostbite may be rewarmed by skin-to-skin contact, but avoid using any heat sources or hot packs. If you can't make it to a medical facility, use immersion of the affected area in warm water (98 to 105 F) for 20 to 30 minutes to rewarm it. Do not rub the affected area or use heat sources.

First Aid for Bee Stings:

Use these bee sting first aid tips:

  1. Get the stinger out any way you can to prevent more venom being delivered. It's a myth that any particular way is better or worse.

  2. If the person is known to be allergic to bee stings, use an EpiPen to prevent anaphylaxis or call 911 if none is available.

  3. Use a cold pack to reduce swelling at the site, but take care not to cause frostbite.

  4. Use an antihistamine like Benadryl (diphenhydramine) to reduce swelling and itching.

  5. Try ibuprofen or Tylenol (acetaminophen) for pain.

  6. Monitor the person who was stung by signs of anaphylaxis, including hives, redness or itching in other areas of the body, and shortness of breath.

First Aid for Choking:

Typically, a person who is choking will have their hands to their throat. If they are coughing, they should continue to cough forcefully. If they can't cough, can't talk, are having difficulty breathing, are turning 'bluish' or 'dusky', the 5 and 5 approach is recommended.

5 forceful blows on the upper back, between the shoulder blades, followed by

5 abdominal thrusts, also known as the Heimlich Maneuver.

Alternate between blows and thrusts until the object causing the choking is expelled.

First Aid for Strokes:

The FAST guide is the most important thing to remember when dealing with people who have had a stroke. The earlier they receive treatment, the better. Call 911 for emergency medical help straight away.

If you think a person has had a stroke, use the FAST guide:

  • Facial weakness – is the person unable to smile evenly, or are their eyes or mouth droopy?

  • Arm weakness – is the person only able to raise one arm?

  • Speech problems – is the person unable to speak clearly or understand you?

  • Time to call 911 – for emergency help if a person has any of these symptoms

CPR - Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation

It's a great idea to take a basic CPR course. You can find them offered in your community - The American Red Cross can direct you to local and Online classes that might be just what you need!

But, if you haven't had a CPR course, or have but are 'rusty' then stop and think before trying to apply anything beyond chest compressions. The Mayo Clinic and CDC recommend that you use 'hands-only' chest compressions if you're not trained and/or confident in your abilities. It's important to remember that you're trying to save a life, and applying even the 'right' intervention in the 'wrong' way could do more harm than good. But, really, considering that we're all home more during the pandemic, why not consider an Online CPR course. Let the entire family participate! It might be more interesting - and rewarding - than watching 'that' movie again, for the 'umteenth' time.

The Mayo Clinic has a nice page devoted to the correct methods for administering CPR.

What about legal liability and Good Samaritan Laws?

Everyone should understand their rights and responsibilities in regard to Good Samaritan Laws when stepping forward to render first aid. My training with the USAF Auxiliary Civil Air Patrol spelled it out pretty clearly that if you are acting prudently, voluntarily, and in good faith, there shouldn't be any problem. That said, you must A) tell the person your name, B) your training, C) what you see (understand the situation to be), D) what you intend to do, and E) request their consent (if they are able to give it). Don't assume. Act only within the scope of your training. This requires a level of personal honesty and integrity.

Nearly Universally, these principles apply:

  1. You must act in good faith.

  2. You are neither reckless nor negligent.

  3. Act as a prudent person would.

  4. Only provide care that is within the scope of your training.

  5. You must not abandon the victim once you have begun care.

  6. You must not accept anything in return for your services.

What else?

Prior to providing care for a Conscious Adult, you must first obtain consent. This is a very simple procedure and requires only a few seconds. The steps are as follows:

  1. Tell the victim your name.

  2. Tell them you have been trained to assist in First Aid and/or CPR

  3. Ask the person if he/she wants help.

  4. Once they indicate that they want your help, begin care.

*If the victim is a minor, you may obtain consent from the minor’s legal guardian or parent if they are present on the scene. If the minor’s legal guardian or parent is not present, consider it a situation of Implied Consent.

Your First Aid Kit

Have one for the home and one for every car. Include any personal items such as medications and emergency phone numbers or other items your health-care provider may suggest.

  • Check the kit regularly.

  • Check expiration dates and replace any used or out-of-date contents.

Basic Supplies for a family of four can include (and are not limited to) :

  • 2 absorbent compress dressings (5 x 9 inches)

  • 25 adhesive bandages (assorted sizes)

  • 1 adhesive cloth tape (10 yards x 1 inch)

  • 5 antibiotic ointment packets (approximately 1 gram)

  • 5 antiseptic wipe packets

  • 2 packets of aspirin (81 mg each)

  • 1 emergency blanket

  • 1 breathing barrier (with one-way valve)

  • 1 instant cold compress

  • 2 pair of non-latex gloves (size: large)

  • 2 hydrocortisone ointment packets (approximately 1 gram each)

  • 3 - 3 in. gauze roll (roller) bandage

  • 1- roller bandage (4 inches wide)

  • 5 - 3 in. x 3 in. sterile gauze pads

  • 5 sterile gauze pads (4 x 4 inches)

  • Oral thermometer (non-mercury/nonglass)

  • 2 triangular bandages

  • 1 Tourniquet

  • 1- Pack of 2 3:x24" QuikClot Advanced Clotting Gauze

  • Tweezers

  • Emergency First Aid guide

You might be tempted to 'trick out' your kit with all manner of interesting and useful items, but sometimes 'less is more'. If you need to paw through a lot of 'nice to have' on the way to the critical essentials, you may want to rethink your kit. Prepper sites and online stores are happy to sell you a lot of 'stuff' that you might not need or have the on-going training to use the right way. Think. Do you really need gunshot entry/exit wound kits? Really? Probably 99.9% of the time, you'll be applying some ointment and a bandage.

What should you stock in the kit and medicine cabinet?

  • Calamine lotion

  • Anti-diarrhea medication

  • Laxative

  • Antacids

  • Antihistamine, such as diphenhydramine

  • Hydrocortisone cream

  • Cough and cold medications

  • Personal medications that don't need refrigeration

  • Auto-injector of epinephrine, if prescribed by your doctor

  • Pain relievers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others)

Consider keeping aspirin in your first-aid kit, as well. Aspirin may be life-saving in an adult with chest pain. If you or someone else has new or unexplained chest pain or may be having a heart attack, call for emergency medical help immediately. Then chew a regular-strength aspirin. However, don't take aspirin if you are allergic to aspirin, have bleeding problems or take another blood-thinning medication, or if your doctor previously told you not to do so. Never give aspirin to children.

I recommend having a Quick Reference Guide handy, in the home, car and go-bag, and the Fast Reference Guide, published by the American Red Cross, is inexpensive and accurate. A sample of the content is shown below:

I hope that this post will inspire you to gain some knowledge and basic first aid items. This last year has taught us that anything can happen, at any time. My years of work in search and rescue, and emergency management, demonstrated that if we all work together, with a commitment to our community and the greater good, we can move mountains and, just possibly, save lives.

Join me?

BTW: This is where I stashed the extra bleed kits - One in the car. Where it will be easier to get at even if I've got the trunk filled with suitcases and such. And, the second one in one of our 'go bags'. These bags are hanging right next to the car, in the garage. We toss one in the back when traveling for longer distances, or during winter travel over the Sierras.

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