A First Aid Kit for Rural Living
Building an Emergency First Aid Box for Rural Living
Using a first aid kit contents checklist is an excellent way to build a customized emergency kit, but with so many lists on the internet, which do you follow? This article will focus on preserving a human life. If you’re looking for an animal first aid contents list and their uses, then search for one specifically for livestock.
First Aid Kit Contents Checklist
Before I dive in, let’s talk about the premise of my kit. This checklist assumes that you have called 911 and help is on the way. It’s not some zombie survival kit with a survival bandana, nor is it a glorified band-aid station. These components are things that I carry as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and are appropriate for use by a layman.
There are other items that I carry as an EMT, and things that some websites will say you should have. Some of you will notice that my first aid kit contents checklist is devoid of airway adjuncts, like a Nasopharyngeal Airway (NPA).
My list also excludes any needles, many medications, and other advanced gear. Unless you have been trained to use advanced equipment, don’t use it! If misused, you’re more likely to kill someone than to save them.
A trained individual with limited equipment is in a better position to save a life than a layman with a box full of supplies. If you are inclined to do so, seek out professional training. Many rural towns have volunteer fire departments. Look into joining their ranks, because many of them will cover your training costs.
I carry a “bleeder” kit when I go hiking. That kit has a medical how-to card in it. The medical how-to card is not for me; it’s for the people hiking with me that don’t know what to do. I suggest doing the same with your kit, either by buying a commercially available how-to quick guide, or printing and laminating one from the internet.
Want Versus Need
Understanding the difference between want and need is important. Do I want band-aids? Yes, yes I do. Will I perish without them? No, electrical tape will do just fine. Do I want a “tacticool” whiz-bang kit at my disposal? Maybe I do, but I don’t need it.
What You Need
At the most basic level, we need to stay alive. Life is far more fragile than many people think, and it can slip away in an instant. There are a few things that the average individual can do to preserve a life and to accomplish that feat; there’s a handful of tools that will make it easier to do so.
A paper cut hurts. A scraped knee is unpleasant. A small burn mark from the skillet handle makes for a bad day, and so does a whack of the thumb when you miss with your hammer. However, none of these are going to kill you.
Sprains, dislocated joints and broken fingers are admittedly painful, but like many common injuries, they too are not life-threatening. Neither is a typical, non-angulated broken arm or lower leg. These are cause for action, but simple fractures are not likely to constitute an imminent life threat. Because of that, I’ve omitted splinting supplies from this checklist.
Imminent Life Threats
There are three big things you need to maintain life. In the EMS community, these must-haves are the ABC’s of life support.
ABC is a mnemonic device, and it stands for Airway, Breathing, and Circulation. The theory behind this mnemonic is; you need to maintain a clear airway so you can breathe. Breathing does you no good, however, if your blood is not circulating, or you have no blood left.
Hemorrhaging (bleeding) is the most common life threat you may encounter. Profuse bleeding is an imminent life threat you need to treat immediately.
There is capillary (or venous) bleeding that oozes from a wound, and then there is arterial bleeding. Arterial bleeding is a spurting bleed that keeps cadence with the heartbeat, and although significant venous bleeding can be life-threatening, arterial bleeding is unquestionably an imminent life threat.
Immediate application of pressure to a wound is critical. It’s been standard practice to apply gauze, or non-stick dressing pads to a wound, followed by a wrap of rolled gauze and then an outer bandage to supply pressure. Today’s modern military has found a replacement for this three-step process in the Israeli Battle Dressing.
The Israeli Battle Dressing is a three-in-one product that may cost more than some simple gauze, but it’s a time saver, space saver, and a life saver. This dressing is said to be able to exert up to 31 pounds of pressure on a wound, which should stop bleeding in many instances. I suggest stocking a six-inch size dressing.
Venous bleeding, although less dramatic, can still be an imminent life threat, especially if someone is having a hard time clotting. Gauze that has a hemostatic component makes addressing a bleeding wound much faster and easier.
When buying hemostatic gauze, I prefer the one with the detectable x-ray band, just in case it gets lost in a deep wound, but gauze without the x-ray strip is just as good. If using hemostatic gauze, remember you still need to secure it, usually with rolled gauze or a pressure dressing, and be sure to save the wrapper so you can show medical personnel what you used.
Applying tourniquets to stop an arterial bleed is not a new concept, and you can improvise if need be. A belt, or a length of sturdy cloth with a stick, can be an improvised tourniquet. Improvising is great, but when you’re under stress and in a life-or-death situation, you don’t want to be improvising.
There are several styles of commercially available tourniquets available on the market today. However, the most common design would be the CAT-style tourniquet. The CAT tourniquet relies on a velcro armband, a hard plastic windlass, and a hard plastic catch for the windlass bar. These are simple to use, easy to find online, and very effective.
Always have a marker, such as a sharpie, for your tourniquet. There is a place on the device to mark a time and date, which is good, but the universal procedure is to mark a time (preferably in 24-hour format) on the patient’s forehead. I know it sounds odd, but when that patient enters the hospital, the doctors will immediately know to look for a tourniquet.
Non-adherent Burn Pads
As farmers and homesteaders, we play with some dangerous stuff. Sometimes accidents happen, and you may have to treat a significant thermal or chemical burn.
Burn pads are specifically designed not to stick to burn wounds and are the best way to cover a large burn site. Use these pads in conjunction with bandage tape or rolled gauze to secure it to the patient. Avoid gel type dressings, since you can drive a severely burnt person into hypothermia accidentally.
Airway adjuncts like a nasopharyngeal airway (NPA) do protect a patient’s airway, however, there are many circumstances where you can do far more harm than good, which is why I excluded them on this first aid kit contents checklist. What I do recommend you have, however, is a rescue mask.
A pocket mask, rescue mask or a micro-mask, is a barrier device designed to keep the user safe from infection while giving a patient rescue breaths. You may need to perform CPR on someone who has gone into cardiac arrest, either from natural causes or a traumatic event.
You may also encounter an individual that still has a pulse, but can’t breathe on their own. Respiratory arrest can be caused by illness, traumatic events, exposure to narcotics (either accidental or intentional) and other situations. Be prepared for the situation with a barrier device.
My first aid kit contents checklist includes a bottle of baby aspirin. This aspirin is not for aches and pains; it’s for heart attacks. If you or your patient is experiencing a cardiac event, the 911 operator may instruct you to supply a particular dose of chewable baby aspirin. Wait for instruction to give aspirin, because the operator may tell you not to administer it.
If you or a family member have special conditions that have warranted the issuance of a prescription for an emergency medication, consider keeping a dose in your kit. Epinephrine for allergic reactions, Nitro for angina or Albuterol for asthma patients all qualifies as something you may elect to add to your first aid kit contents checklist.
Be sure your medications have the accompanying prescription labels with the prescribed name printed on them. Also be sure to check expiration dates regularly. If this kit is stored in an automobile, the extreme temperatures may spoil the medication, so consider the storage environment.
Personalizing Your Kit
Do you have a lot of poisonous snakes in your area? You may want to consider adding a snake bite first aid kit to your first aid kit contents checklist. Are you going hiking and worry about dealing with a broken limb? Add a SAM splint and five cravats (triangular bandages). If you foresee any particular situation not otherwise addressed by this first aid kit contents checklist, feel free to add appropriate provisions. Just be sure you’re not going beyond your abilities, and be sure to have the training to back it up.
|Sealed container||1||Keep everything together and dry.||Make sure it’s marked clearly, and weather-tight.|
|Tourniquet||1||Stop arterial hemorrhaging.||I prefer CAT, but any effective style will do.|
|Israeli bandage (6″)||2||Quickly control a bleeding wound.||Four-inch size is good for compact kits, six-inch size is best.|
|Combat gauze||2||Stop bleeding if clotting is compromised.||Good for filling bleeding voids of missing skin.|
|non-stick burn pad||1||Protect severe burns.||Get a big one that is non-gel to avoid hypothermia.|
|rolled gauze (3″)||2||Secure gauze to a wound.|
|3 x 3 non-stick pads||6||Initial covering of a wound, if not using an Israeli.|
|Cloth bandage tape||1||Secure bandages.|
|rescue mask||1||For CPR, or rescue breathing.||Consider a BVM if you are trained to use one.|
|Cravat (triangle bandage)||2||Sling and swath, or improvised tourniquet.|
|Baby aspirin||1||For Cardiac events, if indicated.||Don’t give or use aspirin unless told to by medical personnel.|
|Marker||1||To note the use of a tourniquet.||Mark the time on the patient’s forehead.|
|BLS info card||1||For helpful first aid information for a layman.||Don’t assume everyone knows the basics.|
|Trauma Shears||1||For cutting bandage material and clothing.||Really handy for clipping wing feathers on chickens too.|
|Nitrile Gloves (pairs)||2||Non-latex gloves for the rescuer’s protection.||Many people are allergic to latex, so go for Nitrile.|
|Prescribed Medications||Epi-Pens, Rescue Inhaler, Nitro, etc.||Store them with prescription labels attached.|
|Fast Acting Glucose (tube)||2||Hypoglycemic emergencies are common.||Even non-diabetics can become hypoglycemic.|