What to keep in your first aid kit
Knowledge of first aid can help to alleviate suffering and save lives. (Photo: Pexels)

I have been asked many times why I wear a medic alert bracelet. The answer is that I suffer from many allergies — foods and insect bites.

In fact, I was once stung by a bee and developed an anaphylactic reaction. Whoa! What's that? A very serious allergic reaction! I stopped breathing and had to be resuscitated (just like on the medical TV shows). What saved my life was my obsession with having certain medications easily available at home. These medications included injectable drugs which were used by a neighbour to save my life.

I mention my case to illustrate the importance of having a first aid kit at home. Of course, most people will not have injectable medications at home and if someone developed a bad allergic reaction, that person would need to be rushed to the nearest medical facility for appropriate treatment. However, some action could be taken as soon as symptoms developed. Assuming that the affected person is conscious, he or she could be given an antihistamine (for example — diphenhydramine — DPH) before being rushed off to the nearest medical facility. Quick action in emergency and non-emergency situations can be facilitated by having a first aid kit that is readily accessible to each household member.

The following are items that are suitable for a home first aid kit.

1. Disinfectant

2. Antibiotic ointment (for minor cuts, wounds)

3. Ointment for burns

4. Rubbing alcohol

5. Antihistamine liquid or tablets (for allergic reactions, runny nostrils, itching of the skin)

6. Pain relieving ointment/gel

7. Pain relieving liquid/tablets

8. Oral rehydration salts (for the treatment of dehydration in cases of vomiting and/or diarrhoea)

9. Sundry items — cotton swabs, gauze pads, band-aid, elastic bandage, tape, gloves

10. A small pair of scissors

11. A disposable razor (helps in removing hair from wounds)

12. Tweezers ( can be used to remove splinters from wounds. I have had to use my tweezers to remove prickles from my fingers)

13. Olive oil (can be placed in the ear to aid in the removal of wax)

14. Flashlight

15. Thermometer

16. Ice pack

17. Hot water bottle

A great substitute for an ice pack is an ice filled plastic bag wrapped with a small towel. Similarly, a good substitute for a hot water bottle is a small plastic bottle filled with hot water and wrapped in a towel.

I keep my first aid items in a carton box which is kept in a cupboard. The location of the box is known to all members of the household. You can vary the contents of your kit based on your family's needs. For example, if there are children in the household, you should have oral rehydration salts, paracetamol (for fever), an antihistamine (for example, DPH for runny nostrils) in your first aid kit. I suggest that you purchase the smallest size tubes/bottles of medications and regularly check the expiration dates of the medications that you purchase.

The contents of your first aid kit can be expanded if any household member is diabetic or hypertensive. Those persons need ready access to a glucometer to check the blood glucose levels and a sphygmomanometer (blood pressure measuring machine). Diabetics can obtain a glucometer from the National Health Fund. Many pharmacies sell blood pressure measuring machines. It is very important that everyone is familiar with rendering first aid. Knowledge of first aid can help to alleviate suffering and save lives. We all need to know CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), what to do if someone is choking, ways to stop bleeding, clean wounds, lower a fever, relieve pain, and treat dehydration.

Please remember to keep all medicines out of the reach of small children. If you do not have a first aid kit at home, please start acquiring the contents as soon as possible. This kit may save your life.

Dr Jacqueline E Campbell is a family physician and radio show host. She is the author of the book "A patient's guide to the treatment of diabetes mellitus." Email:drjcampbell14@yahoo.com and IG: dr.jcampbell

Dr Jacqueline E Campbell.

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