What Must You Have in a First Aid Kit?
All of the emergency survival gear in the world won’t help you if you don’t know how to use it. For most of the items in your kit, a few weekends of using it on campouts or practicing with it in your backyard will give you the necessary knowledge.
You’ll learn what works well, how to use the gear most effectively, and which pieces don’t live up to their hype. When it comes to first aid, though, since a lot of hands-on practice is unlikely, it takes a little more dedicated instruction.
PLEASE NOTE: This blog post offers suggestions and general tips for informational purposes ONLY.
Under no circumstances do we claim to be medical professionals, and no information presented herein should be considered to be authoritative, nor used as a guide to treatment or diagnosis.
Where to Learn First Aid Skills
If at all possible, you should take a certified course in First Aid. Licensed, professional instructors have the experience, equipment, and techniques to help you learn various treatments most effectively.
In the United States, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) operates the Citizen Corps program. This program consists of more than 1200 councils nationwide that coordinate training in emergency preparedness and response, firefighting, and medical training. State agencies may be located at this link, and local councils may be found here.
Be Familiar with the First Aid Guide Training and Reference
Many emergency services groups offer training as part of their community outreach programs. Contact nearby hospitals, fire stations, or police departments to see what First Aid courses may be available.
Many of these courses are offered at local community centers such as the Y.M.C.A., the public library, churches, or schools, so contact those institutions for their events calendar. Nationwide groups such as the Red Cross may also offer classes in your area through their local field offices.
You may also contact the Events editor at your local newspaper to see if they are aware of any upcoming classes. Most classes, if not entirely free, only charge a minimal fee to cover supplies.
If there are no classes with live instructors available in your area, you can search for online courses. These courses usually have the same itinerary as those with live instructors, in that they break down the class into individual sections covering different types of injuries, and have videos demonstrating the treatment techniques.
Again, these may be free, or there may be a small access or download fee.
If you can’t find an organized course, you may still be able to find videos online that can teach you what you want to know, it just takes a little more digging on your part. There are even online “games” that walk you through diagnosing and treating various injuries.
First Aid Field References
Having the knowledge is one thing, but being able to recall it accurately is another. As with any other skill, the more you use it, the better you know it.
Emergency Medical Technicians use their skills every day, so they rarely have to consult field manuals. Even so, they still have to get recertified every so often in order to learn new techniques and generally refresh their knowledge.
Taking classes once a year or so, will help keep the information in your mind, but since this something you hopefully won’t have to use very often (if at all), it’s best to have outside reference material close at hand.
As we discussed last Friday, this may be in the form of a First Aid app for your portable device, or electronic copies of military medical field guides for an e-reader. Many pre-packed First Aid kits (see our post from yesterday) contain small booklets with instructions on how to treat common injuries.
You can also get physical copies of books, though they take up space and weight limits. Books are available in all sizes, and range in how comprehensive they are.
A Boy Scout First Aid merit badge pamphlet, for example, weighs only a few ounces and provides a broad overview of treatments and techniques, whereas the print edition of The Comprehensive Guide to Wilderness First Aid has 284 pages and is much more in-depth.
Choose the reference that works best for you based on the techniques covered, how the information is presented, and the space you have available in your survival kit. Obviously, if you are assembling a home library, you will be able to stockpile as many reference books as you like.
The Ultimate First Aid Treatment for Common Field Injuries
First Aid Treatment for Choking
As we discussed in our post on the Rules of Three, the most common form of asphyxiation is choking. Learning to administer the Heimlich maneuver correctly can dislodge foreign material from someone’s throat.
There are different techniques for adults and children, and you can even administer it to yourself using the back of a chair. If the Heimlich maneuver doesn’t work, an emergency tracheotomy can be performed with a sharp knife and a straw.
The Most Important First Aid Skills You need to Know about Bleeding Wounds
Given enough time, your body can heal even severely bleeding wounds on its own through clotting.
Giving it that time is the point behind the first aid treatment. In addition to bandages and tourniquets, there are chemical clotting treatments available that can staunch the bleeding until the body can marshal its own clotting agents.
Scratches, cuts, and punctures are different types of wounds and require different techniques for treating them effectively.
Sometimes you may be able to get away with just a bandage, and other times the wound may require stitches beforehand.
First Aid Steps for Broken Limbs
A broken bone can be extremely debilitating, affecting both your ability to travel and your effectiveness in combating the emergency.
Learning how to immobilize a broken bone to prevent further injury is the key to treating it. Either has splints in your kit or know how to improvise them. You should also know how to treat a broken bone that has pierced the skin.
First Aid for Extreme Temperatures
First Aid Guide for Exposure
This is the number one threat when in extreme temperatures. You should know how to recognize the different stages of both heatstroke or hypothermia and be able to treat any stage.
First Aid Guide for Burns
Burns, whether from fire or chemical exposure, can range from painful to life-threatening.
You should know how to treat them correctly, which means preventing infection and lessening the pain.
What is the First Aid for Unconsciousness
Unconsciousness – This is one way the body deals with extreme trauma. If a member of your party falls into unconsciousness unexpectedly, you should know how to diagnose and treat the cause. Were they struck by debris?
Are they diabetic? Did they eat anything unfamiliar? Have they been bitten by a venomous animal? If cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is called for, know how to perform it correctly, or you could accidentally cause further damage.
If an unconscious person cannot be roused (and there are proper methods for doing this, as well), know how to put them into the correct recovery position.
First Aid Guide for Uncommon Field Injuries
You should be able to know the different types of first aid treatment
As stated, the above list covers the more common field injuries, but in a long-term emergency or survival situation, first aid might not be enough. If you are preparing for an event beyond a few days or a couple of weeks, you may also want to acquire the tools and reference materials necessary for more invasive surgical procedures (removing a burst appendix, for example), repairing instances of internal bleeding, dentistry, and similar measures.
We hope that this post has been useful in determining your level of preparedness when it comes to giving first aid. The ability to quickly diagnose and treat injuries during a survival situation is of vital importance.