The End Of The World First Aid Kit

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A few weeks ago The Feral Irishman sent me an email asking for suggestions for a The End Of The World As We Know It first aid kit. He was looking for something that he could take with him if he had to bug out in a hurry. I thought about it and asked a couple of people what they would suggest and came up with a list. Granted, it’s not really for TEOTWAWKI, it’s more for use around the house or when camping or even in your car if you’re on the road a lot. It’s by no means all encompassing and I’m sure some of my readers will have suggestions for changes and additions. At least I hope so. I’ve even made a couple of changes since I sent my reply to the email.

Here is the slightly expanded list with some comments added.

4×3 dressings (sometimes 4×4 depending on who makes them) Good for covering wounds too big for a band aid.

5×9 dressings A bit more absorbent than 4x3s. And obviously bigger.

One or two trauma dressings These are big and cover a wide area. Very absorbent, but if you have a would big enough to need this, you are out of do it yourself territory.

Tape in various sizes, but remember if you have two inch wide tape you can always cut it down. There are various types, but I like the “Durapore” surgical tape because it combines strength with flexibility and it sticks well. You can also get “cloth” tape, but I’ve never found it to stick as well. Get some “Coban” too if you can find it. It’s stretchy and sticky, good for people who are sweaty.

Band aids in various sizes. Get a big box, you’ll likely use a lot of them.

Steristrips They work well when you need something to hold a wound together and don’t have access to sutures. If you know how to suture, then get some various sizes of suturing material as well.

Ace wraps The come in 3″ and 6″ sizes, get a couple of both sizes. In addition to being good for sprains and strains, they form a nice compression bandage to hold dressings in place over open wounds. They are also great for the “swath” part of a “sling and swath” immobilizer, much better than gauze or another cravat.

Roller gauze bandage Good for holding dressings on arms and legs. Comes in various sizes, but can be cut to size so get a biggest ones you can find.

Triangular bandages, also known as Cravats. Good for making slings and holding things in place. Get a few of these as well.

Tourniquet  There are a number that can be placed one handedly, which will help if you are injured and alone. Keep in mind that you need to get to a doctor fairly quickly to avoid permanent damage. An injury that is serious enough to need a tourniquet is likely to need surgery. Or at least a surgeon to sew up the wound. There is the co called “Israeli bandage” and other brands.

Sterile water, although you can always boil it if you have to. Good for cleaning wounds. Avoid hydrogen peroxide as it can cause tissue injury and slow healing.

Antibiotic cream Good for smaller wounds to keep them from getting infected.

Pepto Bismol Good for diarrhea and nausea or vomiting. Better than Immodium if you aren’t going to be able to get to a doctor for a few days. Immodium can trap bacteria in your gut which can lead to serious problems. Pepto Bismol also calms down nausea and vomiting, which Immodium won’t.

Tylenol and Motrin They do different things and work in different ways. Tylenol works better for me, other people like Motrin (and related drugs) better. The big difference is that Motrin can cause stomach upset.

Pocket Mask Good if you have to give mouth to mouth.

Gloves. Get various sizes. They protect you and the patient from each other. Exam gloves are fine, they are clean but not sterile.

SAM Splint We don’t use them, but they are very versatile and I’ve used them in training classes. You can get the original orange ones, or the tacticool military ones. Get a couple of different sizes.

Vaseline Gauze Good for chest wounds, although if someone has a chest wound serious enough to require this, they are going to require a surgeon and a hospital.

Also, put aside a couple of blankets and some sheets and towels. They don’t need to be sterile, but you want them clean and sealed against the environment. Get army style wool blankets and cheap white sheets. Put them into a large zip lock bag or if you have a way to vacuum seal the bag, do that. Keep in mind that injured or ill people should be kept warm so you’ll want blankets under them as well as on top of them. You can also get disposable blankets, but personally I like stuff that can be rewashed and reused. Some sort of ground cloth too if you are going to be outside.

An eye wash kit is a good idea too. You can get them commercially. Don’t get an “eye wash station”, because they aren’t portable.

I’m not a big fan of commercial “ice packs” since they only last about ten minutes or so. At home I use zip lock bags and ice cubes. Put in a bit of water to keep the cubes from sticking and you have an ice pack that will last for hours. Don’t forget to put a dry face cloth or towel between the injured area and the ice pack.

Antiseptic towelettes Good for cleaning up areas covered with blood that aren’t part of the injured area. Or cleaning your hands for that matter.

Scissors Trauma sheers to be exact. Get a couple of sets.

Medications If you are a family member are on prescription medications, be sure that you have an adequate supply to get you through for a while. How long that will be, it’s hard to predict. I suggest at least a weeks supply, just in case you can’t get to a pharmacy.

Also a first aid course, one tailored to wilderness medicine if possible. You might not be out in the woods, but in a civil disaster of large enough proportions you might as well be because the infrastructure most of us rely on is going to be disrupted or just plain gone. Just having the knowledge is worth while, even if you can’t use all of it.

Update: Two ideas from reader tlczek,

1. My ice pack at home are these little freezable pouches about the size of large ice cubes (mine happen to be Thermos brand) that I keep in a plastic bag. They also sell smallish sheets of them. Both are really convenient for icing injuries and last about as long as water ice. This may be a good option if you’re going somewhere that may not have ice cubes readily available, but a place you can freeze things.

2. Benadryl (diphenhydramine) for allergic reactions or sedation. Obviously it’s not as good as epi for allergies or a benzodiazepine for sedation, but it’s safer and easy to pack away. (Plus, it’s non prescription) Again, it depends on your environment, but in unknown territory, you don’t know what can cause an allergic reaction. Benadryl could keep an airway open long enough to help.

31 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve got two suggestions to consider off the top of my head…

    1. My ice pack at home are these little freezable pouches about the size of large ice cubes (mine happen to be Thermos brand) that I keep in a plastic bag. They also sell smallish sheets of them. Both are really convenient for icing injuries and last about as long as water ice. This may be a good option if you’re going somewhere that may not have ice cubes readily available, but a place you can freeze things.

    2. Benadryl (diphenhydramine) for allergic reactions or sedation. Obviously it’s not as good as epi for allergies or a benzodiazepine for sedation, but it’s safer and easy to pack away. Again, it depends on your environment, but in unknown territory, you don’t know what can cause an allergic reaction. Benadryl could keep an airway open long enough to help.

    Feel free to critique or correct. 🙂

    • Benadryl! I should have thought of that. It’s also a good generic sleep aid, even though that’s a side effect, not what it is sold for. Oh, and I like the ice cube idea too! I’ll add them to the post.

      • Benadryl is a GREAT idea, and one I’m adding tomorrow to my jump kit. I also have tampons and maxipads as quickie bandages/puncture wound care.

        • Old NFO: Ooh, feminine hygienic needs are good, especially as a potential dressing!

          Tooldtowork: Thanks! 🙂 I’m glad you mentioned the sleep-aid aspect. I meant to expound on its use as a sedative. It was one of the few drugs we learned in EMT-Intermediate and it always stuck with me that they emphasized the “sedative” properties despite it being a side effect.

          • It’s a pretty potent sedative that you can buy over the counter. In fact, I’m probably going to take some in a bit to fix this stuffy nose and get a good night’s sleep. 🙂

        • I carry tampons and pads in my camping first aid kit for two reasons. One is, as you’ve said, they work really well as bandages since they’re designed to absorb blood. Second is that if a female member of your group forgot to bring them or ran out and needs one, you look like an absolute hero when you pull them out of your first aid kit.

  2. If you’re going to include steristrips you’d better include benzoin. I might be inclined to carry a little betadine too. If this is true EOTW, apocalypse stuff I’d carry suture material… or at least the needles.

  3. Y’know, I read that title as “The End of the World First Aid Kit” and I was wondering what the “World First Aid Kit” was – some kind of new cockamamie UN scheme?

  4. Toss in a bit of super glue. Good for basic materials repairs and also as a closure for shallow, clean wounds that gape open. (Not as good as the less toxic Dermabond, but significantly cheaper, effective without sewing skills, self-applicable, and safe when used occasionally and in small amounts). Can also be used on deeper wounds, but more side effects ensue.

    Consider a small water filter/purifier (hand pump variety) and possibly electrolyte tablets (environment depending).

  5. If you want sterile saline for eyewash or even just to irrigate a wound, think about the kind that comes in a pressurized can (like a spray can) for contact lens users. It’s already sterile and can’t become contaminated by stuff falling into the container. You can use part of a can and save the rest for later without risk.

    For over-the-counter painkillers, aspirin, naproxen (Aleve), and ibuprofen (Motrin) are great but can interfere with blood clotting. Prefer acetominophen (Tylenol) if you have a wound.

    • I’m not completely convinced that hemostatic agents have a place in the typical person’s first aid kit. I’d really like more evidence either way before I make a suggestion.

      • Well, they sell it now at REI in a few sizes/varieties as QuikClot Sport… After the Japanese Tsunami when *some folks* out here on the West Coast got panicky, all the shelves were pretty much emptied of emergency gear! That means there’s some expensive bug-out gear taking up closet space…
        I kinda want to take this Defensive Medicine Class…I like having that hands-on stuff, a software upgrade after so many years.

        • I can see I’m going to have to add some links to the original post. I didn’t really mean for this to become a “Prepper” thread, but in some ways I should have anticipated that. Maybe I’ll just do a second thread on the subject, to drive up my hit counter if nothing else. 🙂

  6. Duh, I’m not thinking today. Before anything goes in your first aid kit, you need knowledge in your head. If it’s truly the end of the world, the hospital is probably closed. You’re going to have to deal with things yourself.

    The links at this discussion thread lead to a bunch of free downloadable books on emergency medicine where there’s no professional help and limited resources. One is written for captains of ships at sea, another is for missionaries going way off the grid. It’s a cheap place to start.

    http://nyshooters.net/forum/showthread.php?3213-Fixing-boo-boos-after-civilization-falls

    • Good thought, but how much training each individual wants is going to depend on their own circumstances. Despite the thread title, this is really about medical care in the end of civilization. It’s more about medical care when civilization isn’t right at hand and might not be for a few days.

      • “It’s more about medical care when civilization isn’t right at hand and might not be for a few days.”

        For that I highly recommend the Boy Scout first aid materials. When you’re hiking the back 40 at Philmont Scout Ranch, it can take a while for help to arrive.

  7. I would still carry the immodium. I know that there are problems that can be caused, but it is a good backup when the bismuth (Pepto) doesn’t work, and the loss of fluids and electrolytes is going to kill you a long time before any bacteria will. I would also consider space blankets. Reusable, light, small, cheap, and they retain quite a bit of heat. Another thing to consider is a calamine/antihistamine type topical for rashes.

  8. My recommendations usually start with the things that can’t easily be improvised – pocket mask, watch, pen, exam gloves, and eye protection. Wound dressings are fairly easy to improvise. Medications not easy to improvise. I would also add prevention supplies such as items for wound cleaning, water purification, sun block, etc. The kit is also a good place for a book of matches or lighter, whistle, and a pocket knife with tweezers because a zombie attack is unlikely but an untreated splinter that becomes infected could lead to sepsis which could lead to death (and becoming a zombie).

    As a Wilderness Medical Associates lead instructor I have had lots of students in courses that are looking for basic first aid skills for urban disaster situations when the normal healthcare system might not be fully functional. It is great training to have, but of course I am biased.

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