Here’s a saying that you’ve probably heard: prevention is better than cure.
It’s entirely true.
But when things go wrong – and in life, it’s a matter of when, not if – you need to be prepared. One of the best ways to stay ready for all of life’s ups, downs, and everything in between is to make sure you have a well-stocked first aid kit somewhere handy in your home.
Far too many families have first aid materials scattered around the house. The alcohol swabs live in the cupboard behind the mirror above the sink; the thermometer is in a basket under the stairs; the bandages are stowed at the bottom of the hiking bag you bought for the Peru trip that never happened. A simple first aid issue becomes a frustrating version of Where’s Wally.
There are two problems with this approach.
Firstly, it’s not safe – especially if you have small children. You want to keep your first aid materials somewhere little hands cannot access.
Secondly, it’s not helpful when things do go wrong. Whether it’s an insect bite, a cut, a sting, a splinter, or something else that doesn’t require urgent medical attention, the last thing you want to be doing is rummaging through a pile of toiletries while you – or someone you love – is in pain.
Life happens: be prepared
Here’s the bad news: things in life go wrong.
And here’s the good news: you can be prepared.
The reality is, you can’t cover your life in bubble wrap and hope for the best. Even if you could, you wouldn’t want to: life is for living, and living always involves a degree of risk. After all, you can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs. Bruises, grazes, and even insect bites are all a normal part of life.
So, how do you stay prepared with your first aid approach? Here are five tips.
1. Ensure that your first aid kit is well-stocked
A first aid kit with insufficient materials is … well, it’s insufficient. Murphy’s law dictates that if something can go wrong, it will go wrong. I don’t like the pessimism of that, but all too often the one item you need in a first aid situation is the one item you don’t have. Dang.
A good first aid kid will include items like crepe bandages, gauze swabs, stainless steel scissors, a thermal blanket to deal with shock, and a thermometer to help you identify fever. According to Health Direct, a first aid kit will also include:
- hypoallergenic tape
- bandages and adhesive dressing strips
- combine dressing pads (10cm x 10cm) and non-stick dressing pads (7.5cm x 10cm)
- sterile eye pad, alcohol swabs, and antiseptic skin swabs
- gloves (disposable)
- stainless steel tweezers
- safety pins
- sterile saline tubes and/or sachets
- resuscitation face shield
- cream to treat bites, allergic reactions, and other itch-causing conditions.
Worried that you will miss something? You may like to purchase a ready-made first aid kit. This can be a cost-effective and stress-free way to build your ability to respond to first aid issues at home.
2. Customise your first aid kit for your particular needs
Leo Tolstoy famously opens his novel Anna Karenina with these haunting lines: ‘Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’
I’m going to have to disagree with Tolstoy: no two families are alike. Happy or unhappy, all families have their own quirks, rhythms, routines, and needs.
The nature of your first aid kit will differ from family to family, couple to couple, individual to individual. It will depend on:
- The size of your family. Hopefully, no matter how large your family is, you will never need to treat more than one person with first aid at a time. Nonetheless, a larger family may require a slightly larger first aid kit.
- Whether or not you have young children. Think about how the age of your children may shape your first aid kit. For example, if you have older children, you may like to stock up on thick crepe bandages, which are especially useful to treat sport injuries. If you have young children, you may like to invest in a digital thermometer, as these are easier to use and less invasive.
- Whether or not you have existing health conditions. You should take into consideration your existing health conditions – or the existing health conditions of members of your family – when you assemble your first aid kit. If you have anaphylaxis, severe asthma, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, or a range of other conditions, speak to your GP about how to best be prepared in the case of an emergency
- Your location. The differences between a rural family and an urban family will be reflected in the first aid kit. Speak to your pharmacist or doctor to see how geographical factors might shape the composition of your first aid kit.
3. Store appropriately
Imagine that you have a friend getting married. They have decided to do something a little different after the ceremony: instead of a morning tea, they are providing all the guests with ice cream.
You have been tasked with bringing the ice cream.
Of course, gathering the required material is important. It takes careful planning!
Just as important, however, is storage. Store it incorrectly, and all your labour will go to waste. (This example is based on a true story; you don’t want to know how it ends.)
The same is true for your first aid kit. Make sure that the bag or container you store your first aid materials in is:
- Sturdy and reliable. You don’t need to break the bank with this; your first aid equipment doesn’t need to live in a Versace bag. You can store the supplies in something humble, but make sure the bag or container is big enough to fit everything comfortably. Look also for something that isn’t prone to tears or breakage, and that is strong enough to protect the contents inside. A smashed thermometer or rusted scissors are of no use!
- Obviously your first aid kit. If you store your first aid materials in a black plastic garbage bag, you run the risk of throwing it out in a fit of cleaning. If you put it in an unmarked cardboard box then shove it in the linen cupboard, you risk forgetting what it looks like in a time of crisis. Choose a bright bag – red, orange, or green. Pick something reflective if you can. Buy something garish and horrible – the more obnoxious the colour, the better. This isn’t a fashion accessory!
- Stored somewhere safe, dry, and accessible. Make sure that you choose the location wisely. Lots of people place it beneath a sink, but a cool and dry cupboard might be more appropriate. Make sure everyone in your house knows where it is, but keep it out of the reach of small children.
- Secured if it is for a boat or car. There is nothing worse than a first aid kit flying through the air after you slam on the breaks to avoid an accident or take a sharp left when the lights turn green! Your first aid kit is meant to help you in your time of need, not act like a cannonball hurtling through the air.
4. Get trained
The contents in your first aid kit are only as good as the person using them. To put it more directly: get trained. By taking a first aid course, you’ll be far better equipped to help yourself and help your family when the need arises. A good course will leave you feeling confident about basic first aid practices, CPR, and the DRSABCD.
A few hours of training might save a life … literally.
5. Know when to seek emergency advice
In an emergency, call triple zero (000). It really is that simple. If in doubt, call!
Health matters: stay prepared
Your health – and the health of your family – is a serious matter. A well-stocked first aid kit is a great way to support your family over this holiday season. Stock up now. And get in touch with us if you have any questions or want more help selecting products that are right for you.
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