I have a confession to make: I’m obsessed with preparing for ‘what-if’ scenarios. When I was in high school, along with my overburdened book bag, I also packed a rather morbid-looking, black leather bag filled with random things I thought would come in handy ‘just in case’. This small rectangle of gloom, which I always carried neatly tucked under my arm did nothing to improve my street cred, but did provide me with a happy sense of morbid security & certainly did come in handy whenever life called for a plaster, hammer or (erhem!) pocket knife.
After (nearly) kicking the habit of keeping emergency supplies of EVERYTHING in my bag, I’ve indulged my passion for back-up supplies by always having a handy first-aid kit in my home or car. This, I discovered, is a healthy manifestation of my hobby, and has rescued us in many a minor scrape.
We’ll talk about a first-aid kit for the car in another post. Today’s will look at those essentials you’ll need for your home.
The most important thing about a first-aid kit is that it’s readily available in case of an emergency. So there’s no use packing it & stuffing it at the back of your shoe cupboard where you can’t get to it easily. Put it where you know everybody in the household can reach it, or even make a cool feature out of it by going retro or ultramodern. Ours is in an easy-pullout bathroom drawer in a transparent, airtight container. Because I see it (and all its contents) every time I open the drawer, I know when we’re low on particular supplies & I’m reminded to check expiration dates periodically too.
Often, we pack our supply box & then forget about them for ages until the next cut finger or burn, etc. Don’t forget to check the expiration dates on all of the supplies you put in there, as these are important & your kit will be no use to you if the contents are expired.
These are the bare essentials you should always keep in your first-aid kit. I chose not to base it on my personal (and possibly insane) first aid kit, but went with Red Cross recommendations instead:
- 2 absorbent compress dressings (5 x 9 inches)
- 25 adhesive bandages (assorted sizes)
- 1 adhesive cloth tape (10 yards x 1 inch)
- 5 antibiotic ointment packets (approximately 1 gram)
- 5 antiseptic wipe packets
- 2 packets of aspirin (81 mg each)
- 1 blanket (space blanket)
- 1 breathing barrier (with one-way valve)
- 1 instant cold compress
- 2 pair of nonlatex gloves (size: large)
- 2 hydrocortisone ointment packets (approximately 1 gram each)
- 1 roller bandage (3 inches wide)
- 1 roller bandage (4 inches wide)
- 5 sterile gauze pads (3 x 3 inches)
- 5 sterile gauze pads (4 x 4 inches)
- Oral thermometer (non-mercury/nonglass)
- 2 triangular bandages
- First aid instruction booklet
Most of the above items can be found at your local Clicks or Dischem. In fact, if you’re in Cape Town, the Dischem in Blue Route has an amazing selection of first-aid supplies. The digital thermometers are also pretty cheap if you buy the store brand (from about R30 each), so invest in one of those. Pick n Pay has also recently come out with generic brands of various first-aid & general household supplies, so go to the toiletries aisle & check them out. They’re decent quality but light on the pocket.
We also stuck two packets of electrolyte restoration powder for those rare food poisoning or (erhem) hangover days. I would also get antihistamines for those with allergies (and for certain bug bites & allergic reactions to them. CHECK WITH YOUR DOCTOR FIRST.)
4. When you use something, put it back!
I once made the mistake of losing my kitchen scissors, and went to the first-aid kit to get those. Bad idea. Why? The scissors were no longer as sterile as they first were (try to keep them as clean as possible), and I forgot to put it back. So I went and bought another pair, and now it never leaves my box.
5. Find out what all those items are used for.
Invest in a first-aid book, too. Exclusive Books in Cavendish had a book sale some months ago, and we picked up a bumper first aid book for under R40. Look around – Bargain Books also has some good specials.
6. Mind the kids!
Even though you want to keep it within easy access of everyone, small children should still not be able to get at the medicines or dangerous tools. Put a child-safe lock on it, if you must (but not a padlock or anything that requires a key or code, as you won’t be able to get at it in a hurry.
7. Educate the household
Appoint one person in the home (an adult) to be in charge of maintaining the first-aid kit, and ensure that you let all members know what everything is used for & how to do so safely.
That’s it! Go out to your nearest grocery store or pharmacy & start building your first aid kit. Do the same for the car, too, so you can save on time. You may not find it quite as fun as I do, but make a project out of it & give yourself a sense of accomplishment when you do. And for those who like to get crafty, you can decorate your own box & put it somewhere on display (marked ‘first aid’, so you know what it is). Try craft websites like Better Homes & Gardens for decoration ideas.