Beyond Band-Aids

“Beyond Band-Aids,” Ensign, Mar. 1992, 73

Beyond Band-Aids

First-aid supplies for families are always useful, but they are an absolute necessity in disasters. If medical facilities or supplies become unavailable, an otherwise preventable or manageable family emergency can result in tragedy—unless a family has been provident in storing essential first-aid supplies.

Families who want to put together their own supply of first-aid items or expand what they already have will find the following list helpful. Family needs vary, and some items, though potentially useful, may be unnecessary.

  1. Disinfectants come in bottles and single-use packs. Unopened bottles will remain sterile and usable for several years; the packs will dehydrate quickly if perforated. Useful disinfectants include hydrogen peroxide, betadine (it kills bacteria on contact and cleanses wounds), liquid chlorine bleach (10-percent chlorine solution kills bacteria in 30 seconds), rubbing alcohol (it sterilizes in 16 minutes), and sterile soaps.

  2. Bandages can be made from any clean material, but they must be sterile if used as dressings. Self-adhesive gauze (4-inch width) is a good storage item, but it must be kept dry. Elastic bandages (for supporting sprains and applying pressure) and triangular bandages (for slings and bandaging large areas of the body) are also useful storage items.

  3. Dressings should include 4-inch-square sterile gauze sponges and small adhesive dressings (3/4 to 1 inch by 3 inches).

  4. Adhesive tape (or paper tape for those allergic to adhesive tapes) in 1/2-, 1-, and 2-inch sizes for bandaging, splinting, and attaching dressings.

  5. Latex gloves.

  6. Bulb aspirator (3-ounce size) for clearing an infant’s nose and throat.

  7. Oral and rectal thermometers.

  8. Petroleum jelly.

  9. Cotton balls and cotton swabs.

  10. Scissors and tweezers.

  11. Disposable cold packs or reusable ice bag.

  12. Reheatable hot packs.

  13. Safety pins and needles.

  14. Snakebite kit.

  15. Single-edge razor blades.

  16. Wool blanket or space blanket.

  17. First-aid manual.

  18. Phone numbers of family doctor, hospital, fire department, police, and poison-control center.

  19. Extra eyeglasses, contact lenses (plus cleaning solution), and hearing-aid batteries as needed.

  20. General adult medications might include ointments to control infection and itching; anti-allergic reaction medicines; sunscreen; pain relievers in varying strengths (aspirin or acetaminophen); salt tablets; cold medicine (cough suppressant, expectorant, decongestant); and an antacid, a laxative, and an emetic. You may wish to store a year’s supply of medications for patients with conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

  21. Children’s medical supplies might consist of disposable diapers (rotate to ensure proper fit), diaper-rash ointment or powder (cornstarch is a substitute), infant or children’s pain reliever tablets or liquid, oral electrolyte to treat dehydration, and a diarrhea medication.

All first-aid supplies should be stored in a dry place and rotated or replaced regularly to avoid impaired sterility, expired shelf life, or damage. A pharmacist can assist you in selecting medications for your first-aid storage and in determining the storage life of specific medications.—Janice J. Harrop, Rigby, Idaho

Photography by Phil Shurtleff

Illustrated by Scott Greer